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Coronary calcium scoring

The most common form of heart disease, coronary artery disease, is usually caused by the buildup of plaque in the heart’s major blood vessels, limiting blood flow to the heart that could result in chest pain (angina) or heart attack. In the early stages of disease, there may be no symptoms. Many people don’t realize they have coronary artery disease until a health crisis makes them aware.

Coronary calcium scoring (heart scan) is a way to detect coronary artery disease in an early stage before symptoms arise using a computed tomography (CT) scan to detect the buildup of calcium on the walls of the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries). The presence of calcium indicates that there may be plaque in the coronary artery that can limit or block blood flow to the heart.  

Your doctor may use the information from this exam to determine a course of treatment to help reduce your risk for a heart attack in the future.

Who should get a heart scan?

You should consider a heart scan if you are between ages 40-70 and at increased risk for heart disease but do not have symptoms. People at increased risk include those with the following traits:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Past or present smoker
  • History of high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Overweight
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Other non-traditional risk factors

If you are less than 40 years old and high cholesterol runs in your family (familial hypercholesterolemia), you might consider a calcium scan. 

Talk to your doctor regarding your risk of heart disease and if you may benefit from coronary calcium scoring. 

What will the exam be like?

Coronary calcium scoring is a non-invasive scan that takes about 5 minutes. You will be asked to lie still on a comfortable table and hold your breath for about 10 seconds. Your heartbeat will be monitored during the exam to ensure clear images. The only thing you may feel is the table moving during the scan. 

Once complete, a copy of the report will be sent to your doctor.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease can include:

  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back

Signs and symptoms may be different for men and women. Women are more likely to have chest discomfort along with shortness of breath, nausea, and extreme fatigue. So it’s important to pay attention to your body and discuss concerns with your doctor.  

Dignity Health offers coronary calcium scoring at these locations:

French Hospital Medical Center
Diagnostic Imaging Department
1911 Johnson Avenue, 
San Luis Obispo
(805) 542-6392

San Luis Diagnostic Center
1100 Monterey Street, Ste 210
San Luis Obispo
(805) 595-1535

Dignity Health Imaging - Matthew Will Memorial Medical Center
850 Fair Oaks Avenue, Arroyo Grande
(805) 473-7677

Plaza Diagnostic Imaging
525 East Plaza Drive, Ste 206
Santa Maria
(805) 739-3848

Please check with your insurance plan regarding coverage for this exam.

We offer a cash rate for those without insurance coverage. Please inquire prior to your exam.