Cardiac Calcium Scoring

What's Your Cardiac Score?

A revolutionary advance in detecting heart disease.

Facts about heart disease:

  • 58 million Americans have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease.
  • Coronary heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.
  • More Americans die of heart disease, than all types of cancer combined.
  • At least 250,000 people a year die of a heart attack within one hour of the onset of symptoms and before they reach a hospital.
  • 12 million people alive today have a history of heart attack, chest pain or both.
  • Source: American Heart Association

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

The risk factors for heart disease include the following:

  • Age (men 45 or older, women 55 or older)
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • History of smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High stress levels,
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes

What causes heart disease?

The primary cause of heart disease is the build-up of plaque (atherosclerosis) in the arteries of the heart. This build-up can cause the arteries to narrow. Plaque can also break away from the artery walls and cause a blockage. In both instances the heart muscle does not receive enough blood flow and oxygen-thus a heart attack can occur.

What is cardiac scoring?

Cardiac scoring is a revolutionary, pain-free, non-invasive and inexpensive procedure requiring less than 10 minutes. Using CT imaging with sub-second scanning capability, the equipment takes 70-90 images of your coronary arteries without any injections, needles or removal of your clothing. The amount of calcium or plaque detected in your coronary arteries is used to establish your cardiac score.

CT scan reveals moderate calcification
(plaque build-up) in the left coronary artery.

What does the procedure involve?

First, you complete a brief risk factor questionnaire. Next, you lie down on the imaging table while a CT technologist places a few EKG leads on you. You are then asked to hold your breath while the images are taken. That's it. You can return to your regular routine.

A board certified radiologist, using high tech software, calculates your cardiac score based on the images taken. He or she provides an evaluation of the results within 48 hours.

Reconstructed 3-dimensional image of the heart
obtained from CT scanning.

Is cardiac scoring safe?

The radiation exposure during cardiac scoring is very minimal (comparable to the radiation received during a chest x-ray). No intravenous injections or needles are required.

Not only is it safe, but it is also simple. In most cases (unless there are certain types of buttons or bra metal involved),, patients may keep their shirt or blouse on during the procedure.

What can my cardiac score tell me and my doctor?

Subtle early warning signs of heart disease can be detected. Cardiac scoring is the latest diagnostic tool to detect plaque in the coronary arteries. With this information, your doctor can recommend the appropriate treatment, including diet and lifestyle changes, medication and/or further testing.

Is coronary artery disease treatable?

Yes, the plaque build-up process can be slowed, stabilized and reversed, in some cases, through aggressive lifestyle modification and/or through medication therapies under the guidance of your physician.

What are the general recommendations for interpretation of calcium scores?

0

No identifiable atherosclerotic plaque.

Very low cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk
Healthy Diet (low in saturated fat and cholesterol)
Stop Smoking
Maintain Recommended Weight
1-10

Minimal plaque burden

Low CVD risk
All recommendations above PLUS
Tight control of Diabetes and Hypertension
Consider use of Statins in cases of High Cholesterol
11-100

Mild plaque burden

Moderate CVD risk
All recommendations above PLUS
Estrogen for Post-Menopausal Women
Aspirin Use
Use of Statins in cases of High Cholesterol
101-400

Moderate plaque burden

High CVD risk
All recommendations above PLUS
Exercise program
Use of Statins in cases of high and borderline cholesterol levels
Consider use of Folic Acid, Vitamin E, Fish Oils
>400

Extensive plaque burden

Very high CVD risk
All recommendations above PLUS
Exercise Test to rule out obstructive disease
Consider angiogram for symptomatic patients or those in high risk occupations

How does my score compare with others in my age group?

Coronary Artery Calcium Scores
(percentile rankings in 19,200 asymptomatic patients*)

 

AGE

 40-45

 46-50

 51-55

 56-60

 61-65

 66-70

 70 +

PERCENTILE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 10%

 0

0

0

1

1

3

3

 25%

0.5

1

2

5

12

30

65

 50%

2

3

15

54

117

166

350

 75%

11

36

110

229

386

538

844

 90%

69

151

346

588

933

1151

1650

 WOMEN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 10%

 0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 25%

0.1

0.1

0.1

0.2

0.5

1

4

 50%

0.1

0.1

1

1

3

25

51

 75%

1

2

6

22

 68

148

231

 90%

3

21

61

127

208

327

698

*From University of Illinois database of self-referred patients

Test

Advantages

Disadvantages

Stress Test Ideal for patients who are symptomatic
Used to determine extent of ischemia
Does not produce an image of coronary arteries
Significant blockage must be present to detect ischemia (i.e. does not detect preclinical disease)
Angiography "Gold standard"
Shows narrowing of lumen
Shows number of diseased vessels
Generally used only with demonstrable ischemia
Invasive
Expensive
No information regarding type of plaque (soft or hard)
Intravascular Ultrasound Direct visualization of vessel wall and lumen size; useful for angioplasty and stent placement
Can detect calcification
Generally used only with demonstrable ischemia
Invasive
Expensive

Helical/EBCT

Cardiac Score
Noninvasive
Detects and quantifies coronary calcification
May be used in asymptomatic patients
May be used to estimate total atherosclerotic plaque burden and risk of future events
Does not identify stenotic lesions
Conflicting evidence regarding correlation of CAC score to risk of events
No universally defined treatment plans for those with positive test results

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