Columbus Community Hospital recently announced it soon will offer cardiac calcium scoring, a tool that can be useful in estimating the risk of a future coronary event in patients.
The procedure also is known as coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring, a heart scan or a calcium score. It checks for plaque or calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, which could cause heart disease or lead to a heart attack.
“When physicians talk to patients, they ask them about family history, cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking,” said John Beauvais, radiologist with Columbus Community Hospital’s North Central Radiology. “This is just another factor they can use for prognosis.”
The coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Plaque, which could be made of fat, calcium and or substances, can build up and narrow or close the coronary arteries. Health care providers use calcium scoring to detect this buildup.
The procedure will be available at CCH when a new Siemens SOMATOM Definition Edge computed tomography (CT) machine arrives at the facility. The new machine is part of the hospital’s $35 million expansion and renovation project.
During the scan, a patient lies on their back on the CT table, and staff place electrocardiogram (EKG) electrodes on the patient’s chest to monitor their heart rate. The CT table moves in very small increments every few seconds while taking pictures. The staff member asks the patient to hold perfectly still and possibly hold their breath for a short period of time.
“The scan only takes about 15 seconds,” Beauvais said. “It takes more time for patients to check in with the front desk, get changed and be hooked up to the EKG monitor. In all, the visit will probably only take 15 to 20 minutes for patients.”
When the scan is complete, radiology technicians process the images and a radiologist interprets the results before reporting them to the patient’s referring doctor.
Who should have cardiac calcium scoring?
Calcium scoring is for men — aged 35 to 70 — or women — aged 40 to 70 — who have had a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart disease, and have one or more of the following major risk factors for developing heart disease:
• Total cholesterol over 200.
• LDL “bad” cholesterol over 130.
• HDL “good” cholesterol below 40.
• High blood pressure.
• History of blocked arteries in the legs or pain in the calves when walking.
• History of stroke.
• Family history of premature coronary disease (parent, grandparent or sibling with heart attack or other coronary event before age 65).
Patients must have a physician who refers them to complete cardiac calcium scoring. The cost of the exam is $150, payable to CCH. Patients will need to pay for the procedure, as most insurances will not cover the cost of this test. We will not perform the test if we do not receive payment prior to the exam.
For more information on cardiac calcium scoring, talk to your primary care provider or cardiologist. For information on Columbus Community Hospital’s North Central Radiology or any other services offered at CCH, please visit www.columbushosp.org.