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Coronary Artery Calcium Screening

Men over the age of 40 and women over the age of 45 one or more risk factors such as family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes should consider a heart scan appointment. To schedule a heart scan:

  • Talk with your doctor to be sure this is an appropriate test for you.
  • Call the Avista Scheduling line at 303-673-1233 for questions or to schedule a heart scan.
  • Please note many insurances do not pay for this screening.

Why should I get a heart scan?

  • Despite years of identifying traditional risk factors, heart attack remains the number one cause of death. Avista goes beyond the traditional approach and now uses more advanced testing such as Heart Calcium Scoring, to identify and treat arterial hard plaque, an indicator of heart attack and stroke.
  • Heart calcium scoring will help determine your risk of developing coronary artery disease. It is a better predictor than cholesterol screening or many other non invasive tests. The information from the scan can give your doctor more information to manage disease when it is present.
  • Many times people with heart disease have few visible symptoms. Yet heart disease is the number one killer for both men and women in America. Approximately 50 percent of heart attacks occur in people who have no known history of heart disease. And 50 percent of the men and 64 percent of the women who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms.
  • It is convenient, noninvasive, takes little time, and does not require an injection.
  • The results can help you and your doctor determine action steps to stop or reverse damage and prevent future issues from arising.

What is a heart (calcium scoring) exam?

  • The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart and normally do not contain calcium (hard plaque). Calcium in the coronary arteries is a sign of coronary artery disease. Using a special state-of- the art high speed CT scanner, we look inside the heart, on the walls of the arteries, to check for the buildup of calcium or hard plaque. A calcium score measures the amount of calcium build up which is an indication of heart disease and helps determine your risk of heart disease.
  • A calcium score of 101-400 means a larger amount of plaque is present and your chance of having a heart attack is moderate to high.
  • A calcium score of zero means there is a high probability that you have little or no hard plaque in your arteries. HOWEVER, it is not a clean bill of health. Some people have soft plaque, which is not detected by this test and causes risk of heart attack as well.
  • The test itself is done on a CT (Computed Tomography) machine, a large doughnut shaped machine. During a short breath hold the machine will take a series of pictures (x-rays) of your heart.
  • While there is no prep required, it is a good idea not to drink coffee or smoke 4 hours prior to the test.

What are the risks of a heat scan?

Any test that involves radiation exposure carries a small risk. A calcium scoring is considered to be a relatively lower radiation test. However you should make sure that the benefits of having this test outweigh the risk by:

  • Discussing the exam with your physician to be sure this is the right test for you.
  • Reviewing the recommendations above under should consider a heart scan.
  • There is information on the web regarding radiation exposure, including a comparative graph at www.radiologyinfo.org. (We are not responsible for the content of neither any web site nor verifying the accuracy of data contained on these sites). (The web has information on many different types of scanners including single slice, 4-slice, etc. Avista is using a 64-slice CT scanner)

What happens with the results?

The results will be sent to your physician for you to discuss with them. They can assist you with recommendations for future actions. If you do not have a physician our staff can direct you to the physician referral network.

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