Cardiac calcium scoring is one of the simplest, yet most advanced methods to detect heart disease at its earliest stages. It's a painless test and it's available at the Imaging Center at Lowell General Hospital's Chelmsford Campus.
The first sign of coronary artery disease is calcification - calcium deposits in plaque on the walls of your arteries. Using high-speed computerized tomography (CT), the measurement of plaque and calcification produces a cardiac calcium score that quantifies your level of deposits and the risk of having a sudden cardiac event, such as a heart attack. If there is no plaque, the score and the risk are very low. If plaque is present and the calcium score is high, the risk of disease is higher.
Calcium scoring does more than identify the likelihood of a heart attack, it can help prevent one. Richard Birkhead, MD, chief of cardiology at Lowell General Hospital explains, "Your physician will consider the score along with the risk factors such as age, family history, cholesterol level, diabetes, high blood pressure, weight and tobacco use. The score then provides valuable guidance about how aggressive you should be about prevention, which we call primary risk reduction."
Since coronary artery disease doesn't often have symptoms until an episode occurs, a cardiac calcium score can help identify those who could benefit from preventive evaluation and treatment.
"This test isn't for everyone," Dr. Birkhead stresses. "If you have no risk factors for coronary heart disease, this test isn't useful. But if you're at intermediate risk - for example you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, or a family history of heart disease - it can help your doctor determine the most appropriate preventive strategies."
Patients can request this test without a referral and it is a self-paid exam. "By empowering patients to directly access cardiac calcium scoring, they can be more proactive in identifying their risk for sudden heart attack," Dr. Birkhead says. "If more people are aware and being more aggressive about primary risk reduction, maybe there will be less heart disease in the future.
NOTE: While a physician’s referral is not required for this exam, we do expect you to provide the name of your primary care physician at the time of scheduling your exam. Your physician will be able to review the results of the exam with you, including any incidental findings. If you do not have a primary care physician you may call 1-877-LGH-WELL and someone will be happy to assist you with obtaining one.
Print our Calcium Scoring Brochure.
Find out how to schedule a Heart CT Calcium Score Scan
Before Your Appointment
- Please pre-register by calling 978-937-6023 Monday-Friday, from 7:00am-8:00pm or anytime online at Express Registration.
- Please do not:
- use Nicotine for at least 12 hours before your exam
- use any stimulants (Viagra, Cialis, energy drinks or decongestants) for 48 hours prior to your exam
- eat or drink anything containing caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, soda) for 12 hours before your exam.
- Your test has been scheduled at the Lowell General Hospital's Chelmsford Campus, you must report to 10 Research Place on the day of your examination. Hours of operation for Imaging Services at Lowell General Hospital's Chelmsford Campus are Monday-Friday 7:00am-3:30pm.
- Please remember that we would like you to arrive at Lowell General Hospital's Chelmsford Campus 15 minutes before your scheduled exam time.
- If for any reason you need to reschedule this appointment, please call Lowell General Hospital Central Scheduling at 978-937-6023, Monday-Friday 7:00am-6:00pm.
While a physician’s referral is not required for this exam, we do expect you to provide the name of your primary care physician at the time of scheduling your exam. Your physician will be able to review the results of the exam with you, including any incidental findings. If you do not have a primary care physician you may call 1-877-LGH-WELL and someone will be happy to assist you with obtaining one.
The cost of this procedure is $150. Payment will be due at the time services are provided. We accept cash, check, and all major credit cards.
There is a possibility that your test may have to be rescheduled if your heart rate does not fall within the range set by our physicians. If that becomes necessary, then the CT Technologists will give you instructions on the day of your appointment.