Heart disease is a result of damage to the arteries from plaque and inflammation. Plaque deposits in and on the walls of coronary arteries, restricting oxygen-rich blood to the muscles of the heart. A CT heart scan is used to capture images of the heart, enabling doctors to detect calcium-containing plaque in the arteries.
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Two kinds of CT scans are used to diagnose heart disease: a coronary CT angiography or a calcium score screening heart scan. In today’s blog, we’ll compare and contrast the two as well as share the four most common heart problems a heart scan uncovers.
Coronary CT Angiography (CTA)
This test creates high-resolution, 3D pictures of the moving heart and surrounding blood vessels. Its purpose is to detect fatty or calcium deposits that have built up in the arteries.
This test involves an iodine contrast dye and medication, stabilizing your heart to improve imaging results. It takes about 10 minutes and is useful for detecting coronary artery stenosis, a narrowing that can cause significant health problems. A CTA is also used to determine if chest pain is being caused by a coronary blockage in high-risk patients.
Calcium Score Screening Heart Scan
A calcium score screening heart scan detects calcium deposits found in atherosclerotic plaque. This is one of the most effective ways to detect early coronary calcification before the hardening of the plaque becomes a concern. The amount of calcium can indicate potential heart problems and signal the need for lifestyle changes.
If calcium is found in coronary arteries, the computer will generate a score that estimates the extent of the disease. The procedure takes just a few minutes to perform and takes non-invasive a step further without the need for contrast dye.
4 Problems a Heart Scan Can Detect
A calcium score screening heart scan is a common test for people experiencing symptoms of heart disease. It allows the technician and your doctor to explore the structure of the heart without the need for incisions, dye or radiation. Your doctor may recommend a heart scan for various conditions.
The most common problems they’re looking for include:
- Congenital heart disease
- Defects/injury to the heart’s primary valves
- Blood clots within the heart’s chambers
- Tumors in or on the heart
What Can I Expect During the Scan?
Before you begin the scan, you’ll lie down on a bench in a specific position. From there, the technician may use pillows or straps to ensure you stay in the correct position long enough to obtain a high-quality image. Next, the technician will move the table (using a remote from the other room) into the CT machine. It looks like a giant doughnut made of plastic and metal.
You’ll likely go through the machine several times. Though you’ll be in the room alone, the technician will communicate with you through an intercom. After a round of scans, you may be required to wait a few minutes as the technicians ensure the images are clear. Or, you may be asked to hold your breath during individual scans, lasting 10-20 seconds. As a whole, the whole test shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.
What Happens After the Heart Scan?
After the scan is complete, you can return to your normal activities right away. (That’s one of the perks of being a non-invasive procedure). Obtaining your results won’t take long. They’ll be examined by one of our specialists, who will determine your risk of coronary artery disease. They may also provide recommendations for altering lifestyle habits, medications or further testing.
From there, you can take the results with you to discuss with your doctor. Depending on what the images show, they may advise you of any treatments, procedures or medication that would help.
Early Detection is Key
One of the first signs of heart disease is a heart attack or stroke. A heart scan from Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa can arm you with the information you need to take back the reigns of your health. To learn more about heart disease or to schedule a full body scan, reach out to us today at (918) 879-6161.
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