What is CT Calcium Scoring ? (CTCS or CT Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring)
A CT Calcium Score, also known as CTCS or CT Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring, is a quick, non-invasive specialised CT test that scans the heart and measures the amount of calcium build-up in the wall of the Coronary Arteries which supply the heart muscle, to give a general indication of the overall risk of underlying significant Coronary Artery disease.
Unlike a CT Coronary Angiogram (CTCA), a CT Calcium Score (CTCS) scan does not require a contrast dye injection, but also does not directly detect narrowings of the Coronary Arteries.
The CTCS scan only takes a fraction of a second, although appointment times in our Gold Coast clinic are usually around 5-10 minutes.
Panorama Radiology Specialists’ state-of-the-art 640 slice CT scanner utilises ultra-low radiation dose AI technology to acquire the CTCS images in a fraction of a single heartbeat, to deliver the highest possible image detail using the lowest possible radiation dose.
Coronary Artery disease or ‘heart disease’ remains the leading cause of death worldwide in adults over 50. As we age, we commonly develop deposits of atheroma or ‘plaque’ in the wall of the Coronary Arteries that supply the heart muscle. The plaques usually start as a small fatty streak, progressing to a buildup of fatty and fibrous plaque and cholesterol deposits, which frequently develop calcium buildup over the years. As plaque builds up, it causes narrowing (stenosis) of the Coronary Arteries, and in severe disease, plaques may rupture and cause complete blockage of the vessel resulting in severe damage to the heart muscle or heart attack.
Mild to moderate narrowing of the Coronary Arteries is often completely asymptomatic or silent.
More severe narrowing of the Coronary Arteries may be silent or may present with symptoms such as reduced exercise tolerance or chest pain (angina). Heart disease, when identified early, can be successfully treated with a variety of measures, including risk factors and lifestyle modifications and medical therapy. Severe Coronary Artery disease may be treated with medical therapies or interventional procedures such as angioplasty and stenting. Early detection and intervention are important steps in identifying and managing heart disease.
CT Calcium Score is commonly requested by clinicians as a screening test to give a guide to the future risk of significant heart disease by measuring the amount of Calcium build-up in the wall of the Coronary Arteries. The test provides a number or Calcium Score measured in Agatston Units, indicating the total volume of Calcium in the Coronary Arteries, which may indicate a normal, low, moderate or high risk of heart disease for age.
A high Calcium Score does not necessarily mean there is definite narrowing (stenosis) of the Coronary Arteries but merely indicates an increased risk of significant heart disease.
Unlike CT Coronary Angiography (CTCA), a CT Calcium Scoring scan does not allow visualisation inside the Coronary Arteries. However, there is a proven correlation between a high Calcium Score and a high risk of a significant underlying Coronary Artery stenosis.
The Calcium Score is assessed by doctors in conjunction with the overall clinical picture including risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking or family history of heart disease.
A mildly elevated Calcium Score may warrant simple lifestyle modifications such as quitting smoking or increasing exercise. A moderately elevated Calcium Score may warrant additional measures such as medication to control cholesterol or other risk factors. A high Calcium Score may prompt consideration of additional tests to directly assess for narrowing of the Coronary Arteries, such as CT Coronary Angiography (CTCA) or assessment of heart muscle function using stress testing or Echocardiography.
What Happens During My CTCS Appointment?
Our staff will advise you of any specific preparation required. However, it is recommended to avoid caffeine (including tea, coffee and caffeinated soft drinks) and smoking for 12 hours prior to your CT Calcium Scoring test. Drink plenty of water beforehand to remain hydrated for the scan. Your doctor may give you instructions regarding your usual medication if relevant; please be sure to follow them.
You may need to change into a gown for your scan and remove any jewellery around the neck and chest area. The CTCS scan does not require the use of contrast dye. The technologist will check your heart rate before the scan and attach ECG leads to your chest, which allows the scanner to time the scan with a single heartbeat when the heart muscle is most relaxed. The actual scan takes only a fraction of a second, although an appointment in our Gold Coast clinic usually takes 5-10 minutes.
Does CTCS Involve Radiation?
Like all CT scans, CTCS uses a very small dose of radiation to acquire image of the heart.
Panorama Radiology Specialists’ state-of-the-art ultra-low dose 640 slice CT scanner is equipped with AI image enhancement, and scans the entire heart in a single heartbeat within a fraction of a second – ensuring our CT Calcium Score studies use the lowest possible radiation doses.
As for all imaging tests, your referring doctor has considered that the benefits of the test outweigh any theoretical risks related to the very small radiation exposure involved in the scan.
CT Calcium Scoring is generally not recommended in pregnancy.
Please advise our staff if you are pregnant or think you might be.
CT Calcium Scoring Fees
We accept all GP and specialist CT Calcium Scoring referrals.
Medicare unfortunately currently does not cover the cost of CTCS, so PRS charge a discounted fee for this service for GP referrals.
We provide CT Calcium Scoring at no charge for Medicare-eligible specialist-referred CTCA studies.
Please ask our staff for further billing details.
CT Calcium Scoring Results
Your CT Calcium Scoring test results and images will be promptly electronically delivered to your referrer.
You will need to return to see your referrer to discuss your results.