During the procedure
Before the actual scan begins, the technician will attach sensors, called electrodes, to your chest. These are attached to an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which will record your heart activity during the exam and coordinate the timing of X-ray pictures between heartbeats, when the heart muscles are relaxed.
During the heart scan, you will lie on your back on a movable table. The table will slide you into the tubelike CT scanner. Your head will be outside the scanner the whole time. The exam room will likely be cool.
You may be given medication either by pill or injection that slows your heart to ensure clear images. If you are nervous or anxious, you may be given medication to help you remain calm.
The technician will operate the scanner from a room next door. He or she will be able to see you and communicate with you. The technician will ask you to lie still and hold your breath for a few seconds while the X-ray pictures are taken. The machine will make clicking and whirring sounds, and the entire procedure should take 10 to 15 minutes.
After the procedure
There usually 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.
April 30, 2016
- What is a coronary calcium scan? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cscan/. Accessed Jan. 12, 2016.
- Goff DC, et al. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the assessment of cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2014;63:2935.
- Gerber TC, et al. Diagnostic and prognostic implication of coronary artery calcification detected by computed tomography. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 12, 2016.
- Alluri K, et al. Scoring of coronary artery calcium scans: History, assumptions, current limitations, and future directions. Atherosclerosis. 2015;239:109.
- Greenland P, et al. 2010 ACCF/AHA guideline for assessment of cardiovascular risk in asymptomatic adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2010;56:e50.
- Hecht HS. Coronary artery calcium scanning: Past, present, and future. JACC Cardiovascular Imaging. 2015;8:579.
- Shah NR, et al. An evidence-based guide for coronary calcium scoring in asymptomatic patients without coronary heart disease. Texas Heart Institute Journal. 2012;39:240.
- Lopez-Jimenez F (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 23, 2016.
Heart scan (coronary calcium scan)