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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

A computed tomography (CT) scan, sometimes also called a CAT scan, uses special x-ray equipment to create highly detailed images of internal organs. An x-ray tube rotates around your body, scanning it with x-rays. Imagine your body as a loaf of bread and you are looking at one end of the loaf. As you remove each slice of bread you can see the entire surface of that slice. Your body is seen on CT scan pictures in a similar way.


Depending on the CT exam ordered, you may be given an injection of contrast, which we sometimes call x-ray dye, through an IV in your arm while the radiology technicians take your pictures. This contrast shows up white on your CT scan images allowing us to take a better look at your organs inside. You may be instructed to not eat or drink anything the night before your test.

Important things to tell your technologist:

  • Symptoms you are having
  • If you have a known allergy to x-ray dye
  • If you become anxious in confined spaces or are claustrophobic (most patients do well with this exam and this is not usually an issue)
  • If you are pregnant
  • Any previous exams of the area being tested
  • Any previous surgeries of the area being tested
  • Any allergies you may have

Some specific reasons this test may be used:

  • Blood clots
  • Kidney function
  • Renal disease
  • Spine fractures
  • Brain bleed or stroke
  • Sinus disease
  • Tumors
  • Abdominal disease
  • To determine the presence or spread of cancer

The radiology team is skilled in capturing images for review by a radiologist. The radiologist is specifically trained to interpret x-ray studies and diagnose based on them. As the radiology team lacks full training for this purpose, we are unable to provide results during your examination.

Lung Cancer Screening CT

For some patients, CT may also be recommended for lung cancer screening. To find potentially cancerous nodules early, which greatly increases the chance of survival, doctors must be able to see them and CT lung screening is the test than can do that.

We recommend a yearly CT lung cancer screening for at-risk patients. Eligibility requirements for insurance are:

  • 55-76 years of age
  • Current smoker or have quit within the last 15 years
  • Smoked at least 30 pack years (pack years = cigarettes per day x years smoked divided by 20)
  • Have not had a history of lung cancer or any lung cancer symptoms

If you believe you are at risk for lung cancer, discuss your smoking history and other risk factors with you primary care provider.

Coronary Calcium Test

A Coronary Calcium Test is a non-invasive imaging test that uses CT scanning to detect the amount of calcium in the walls of your coronary arteries which is a marker of how much cholesterol plaque is present. The coronary arteries supply blood to your heart and if they become clogged or narrowed, it can increase your risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

The Goal to a Calcium Scoring Test

Your calcium score is a measure of the amount of calcified plaque in your coronary arteries. This score can be obtained through a non-invasive CT scan of the heart. Knowing your calcium score can help determine your risk of developing heart disease.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, and calcified plaque in the arteries is a major contributor to this disease. By knowing your calcium score, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. For example, if your calcium score is high, you may need to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Your doctor may also recommend medications to help manage your blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Who Should Consider Getting a Test Done?

A practitioner may recommend this simple, low-cost test to further assess risk for men (40 and older) and women (45 and older). The test is not recommended universally for everyone but it can assist healthcare providers in making treatment decisions for people with borderline risk of heart disease.

People may choose to have a CT Calcium Score test done if they have risk factors for heart disease, such as the following:

  • Have a family history of early coronary artery disease.
  • Use tobacco products now or have in the past.
  • Have a history of high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • Are overweight (a body mass index, or BMI, higher than 25) or obese (a BMI higher than 30).
  • Have some of the newer risk factors for coronary disease like lupus, psoriasis, etc

During the Procedure

Before a coronary calcium test begins, sticky patches called electrodes are placed on your chest. Wires connect the patches to a machine that checks your heartbeat. You lie on your back on a movable table. The table slides into a large machine shaped like a ring. Your head is outside the scanner during the exam.

  • You will need to avoid caffeine and nicotine the day of the exam.
  • You will be asked to stay still and hold your breath for 20 seconds at different times throughout the test.
  • The test takes about 30 minutes.

After the Procedure

You can drive yourself home and continue your daily activities after the test unless your doctor tells you not to do so.

Are These Tests Covered by Insurance?

The test is not covered by insurance. The cost of the test at Myrtue Medical Center is $75.00.

Overall, knowing your calcium score can provide valuable information about your heart health and help you make informed decisions about your lifestyle and healthcare. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors for heart disease and if a CT Calcium Score test is appropriate for you.

This test is not necessary if a patient has been previously diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). It is important to note that this test is not recommended for everyone, and you should speak with your doctor to determine if it is right for you.

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