What to expect during your Coronary Calcium Scoring (CT Scan)

Images from state-of-the-art CT scanners at Emory are used by nationally renowned cardiac imagers to measure the amount of calcium in your coronary arteries. The presence of calcium is an accurate marker of atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries caused by the buildup of plaque. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood. Two-thirds of heart attacks are caused by the rupture of plaques which do not significantly narrow the coronary artery.

Your calcium score measures plaque burden on your arteries. Your calcium score will be provided in terms of both an absolute score and percentile based upon age, gender and ethnicity. The percentile is a measure of how many people with similar background have less calcium than you and provides a measure of relative risk.

In addition to providing a full image of your heart, this CT scan will also provide a partial image of your lungs and liver (the portions closest to your heart). As a result, the radiologist reviewing your scan may identify “spots” in the lungs or liver. Many times these spots are benign, but they may require further evaluation for an accurate diagnosis. It is important to note, however, that this type of CT scan is meant primarily to assess your heart and should not be relied upon for a complete health assessment of your lungs and liver.