EBCT Testing Finds Coronary Calcium Before Serious Health Problems Develop
Coronary calcium (plaque that builds up in the arteries of the heart) is a silent condition that can have very serious consequence. Excessive coronary calcium can lead to sudden and catastrophic health problems, including heart attack or death. Fortunately, electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) detects calcium buildup in the coronary arteries before plaque has major consequences.
An EBCT scan is a noninvasive imaging test to detect coronary calcium. The EBCT scan uses x-rays to take pictures of the patient’s heart and these pictures may show areas of calcification on the coronary arteries. The scan looks for smaller specks of calcium (“calcifications” or “plaque”) in the walls of the coronary arteries.
Coronary calcifications are an early sign of coronary artery disease (“CAD”), also known as coronary atherosclerosis. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CAD is the most common type of heart disease. Coronary heart disease claims the lives of 370,000 people in the United States each year.
In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up inside arteries and calcifies. Calcification hardens and narrows arteries in such a way that reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles of the heart. Reduced oxygen and blood flow may cause chest pain or discomfort known as “angina”. Plaques may rupture or break free and a blood clot may form on its surface. A large clot can block the coronary artery partially or completely, leading to a heart attack. Plaque can also contribute to the hardening and narrowing of the coronary arteries over time. CAD can also lead to arrhythmias (an irregular heart rate or rhythm), or heart failure where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Coronary artery disease often causes no symptoms. In many cases, EBCT and other medical tests are they only way patients know they have a heart problem.
Who Should Have an EBCT Coronary Calcium Scan?
An EBCT is appropriate for those with an elevated risk for coronary calcium, including people with:
- A family history of heart disease
- Abnormal blood cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy lifestyle
What to Expect During An EBCT Coronary Calcium Scan
A patient undergoes an EBCT by lying still on the scanner machine for five to ten minutes as the scan records images of the heart. There are no special preparations for this test, although a doctor may request that a patient avoid caffeine and smoking for at least 4 hours before the procedure.
Scanning for coronary calcium may save a life. If you or someone you know is at high risk for coronary calcium, make an appointment for an EBCT scan today.
Call 770.730.0119 today to schedule your preventative screening with Virtual Imaging!