Dr Allan Harkness

Consultant Cardiologist for Essex and Suffolk

CT Calcium Score

I can arrange for you to have a CT Calcium Score at Colchester Hospital or the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre. I have full accreditation to supervise and report Cardiac CT studies, including calcium scores and lead the service at Colchester.

CT Calcium Score is a CT scan of your heart that detects deposits of calcium in the walls of your coronary arteries. Normal healthy arteries have no calcium. If arteries are diseased, they can accumulate calcium in the wall. The amount of calcium in your coronary arteries is a powerful risk factor for determining future cardiac events such as heart attacks.

What does it involve?

You will be given a time to arrive before the scan itself.

You will be asked to lie on a bed in front of the CT machine. ECG stickers will be placed on your shoulders and body to measure your heart beat.

Once your heart rate has settled. you will be asked to raise your arms above your head. You will then go through some breathing manoeuvres prior to the scan – this is to ensure you can hold your breath long enough and to see what your heart rate does when you do this.

The scan for a CT calcium score is very quick. You will hear some automated instructions about breathing in and holding your breath. Try and relax and keep holding your breath until the instruction to “breath away”. The scan is then finished.

Sometimes a CT calcium score is done as part of the initial scan with a view to a full CT coronary angiogram. If this is the case, you will have been told beforehand to prepare for the full CT angiogram and the team will tell you if they are proceeding to this next step – see CT coronary angiogram for more detail.

What preparation is needed?

Usually there is no preparation needed for a CT calcium score.

If you are having a CT coronary angiogram too, there will be preparation for this: Avoid all caffeine for 12 hours beforehand so your heart rate is not increased; take all your normal medication that day unless you have been given any specific instructions by the radiology department; try to have had just a light meal beforehand and avoid much food for 4 hour prior to the test.

Please avoid wearing much jewellery on the day, other than rings on your fingers – metal interferes with the scan and may need to be removed.

How long does it take?

The whole procedure from arriving to leaving can take between 15-30 minutes. The scan itself just takes a few seconds but there is a some preparation required.

What happens after

There should be no “after effects” so you can carry on with your normal routine that day and take your medication as normal.

The scan itself will be reviewed later so the results usually won’t be available on the day. I review and report all my CT scans in conjunction with a Consultant Radiologist in order to provide a comprehensive report.

What are the risks?

Since the scan involves x-rays, there is a small amount of radiation given during the scan. The amount varies from person to person but on average it is about the amount of background natural radiation you receive in less than a year.

What are the benefits?

A CT Calcium Score is a very quick and low risk test for looking at whether your coronary arteries may have early signs of disease (even before you have symptoms). It is often used in patients without symptoms to help decide if they should go on cholesterol or blood pressure lowering treatments.