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Cardiac Calcium Scoring

A Cardiac Calcium Scoring scan is used to check for early signs of heart disease. It allows us to capture images of your heart at sub-second rates on a CT scanner and look for calcium (calcified/hard plaque) within your coronary arteries.

With this exam, we can actually measure the buildup of hard plaque, and compare it to the standard for your age and gender. This will give you a total calcium heart score. The amount of calcium is closely correlated with the extent of coronary atherosclerosis.

A heart score of 0 shows No Identifiable Calcification, 1-10 Minimal Calcifications, 11-100 Mild Calcifications, 101-400 Moderate Calcifications and 401 and above shows Significant Calcifications. With high amounts of coronary calcium, a moderate to high risk of a cardiovascular event can be assumed.  

We recommend sharing your score with your provider to determine what follow-up steps are needed, if any.

Exam Benefits:

  • May detect the build-up of plaque earlier
  • Offers information the may help your provider develop an appropriate prevention strategy for you
  • May reduce the need for more invasive tests

This is a self-pay screening exam with payment due at the time of service. While you do not need a provider’s referral for this exam, we will ask for the name of your preferred provider so that we can share the results with him or her in the event medical follow-up is needed.

If you have questions about an upcoming Cardiac Calcium Scoring scan, or you if would like to schedule this screening exam, please call your preferred center directly.

This is exam is most appropriate for men (age 35-70) and women (age 40-70) who have any of the following risk factors:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight


Cardiac Calcium Scoring is not appropriate for all patients. Some contraindications include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Prior heart attack, angioplasty/stent or bypass surgery
  • Resting heart rate above 90-95 beats per minute
  • Cardiac implants including mechanical heart valves, pacemaker wires or stents

Step 1: We will call you prior to your appointment to discuss specific preparation instructions and your past imaging exams. Be sure to tell us if you are nursing or if there is a chance you are pregnant. We’ll give you a general expectation in terms of time you’ll be in our center, but on average you should budget around 30 – 45 minutes for the CT scan from check-in until departure.

Step 2: On the day of your exam, avoid caffeine and nicotine for three hours prior to your exam. Please arrive 15 minutes early to check in and bring prior imaging results with you, if instructed. 

Step 3: Our CT technologist will help you onto the scanner table. Depending on which center you go to for your exam, you may have electrodes attached to your chest to monitor your heart rhythm. Not all CDI locations require electrodes for their scanners.

Step 4: The technologist will go out of the room to run the scanner from a computer located directly next to the scanner suite, visible through the viewing window. At this time, the CT table you are on will move into the scanner and the technologist will take the images. You will be asked to hold your breath for several seconds and CT pictures will be taken of your heart. The actual time you are in the scanner will be around 15 minutes. The actual scan time will be around 2-3 breath holds.

Step 5: After the exam, your images will be electronically sent to one of our radiologists who will review the information and write a report. This information includes a “calcium score” which represents the amount of hard calcium deposits (plaque) in your coronary arteries. The higher the score, the more plaque buildup. If there is no calcium, your score will be “0.” You will receive your score in the mail in approximately a week. The report will also outline how you compare to other individuals of your age and gender, and whether you have any likelihood of obstructive coronary artery disease.