What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A heart scan takes only a few seconds, during which you will be asked to hold your breath to obtain an accurate image. The scan will show the calcium in your heart arteries by using computerized tomography (CT).

A CT scan is an X-ray technique that produces images of your internal organs that are more detailed than are those produced by conventional X-ray exams. CT scans generate an X-ray beam that rotates around your body, and a powerful computer creates cross-sectional images, like slices, of the inside of your body.

Calcium deposits show up as bright white spots on the scan. The standard imaging technique for coronary arteries uses multislice or helical CT.

Before the scan, you may be asked to remove jewelry from around your neck and you'll change into a hospital gown, although some facilities don't require it. You'll lie on a table with a few electrodes attached to your chest. The table will slide into the CT scanner, which creates the images. You will be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds so that the technicians can get clear images of your heart. In some cases, you may be given medicine to slow your heart rate. After a few minutes, your doctor or technician will have a score that helps estimate your heart attack risk — and may help guide treatment.

In addition to identifying calcium, CT scans can produce detailed pictures of your heart arteries to show the presence of any narrowing (stenosis) of your heart arteries due to coronary artery disease. For this type of cardiac CT, dye is injected into a vein to visualize the coronary arteries (called CT angiography).

After the procedure

There aren't any special precautions you need to take after having a heart scan. You should be able to drive yourself home and continue your daily activities.

May. 01, 2013