Computed tomography, or CT, uses a special machine to obtain multiple x-ray images of the body. Multislice or helical CT obtains multiple simultaneous images from many angles; computer processing creates cross-sections of the area of interest.
Cardiac CT is a non-invasive way of obtaining information about the location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary vessels. A calcium score is generated.
Major risk factors for coronary artery disease are: High blood cholesterol, Family history of heart disease, Diabetes mellitus, High blood pressure, Smoking, Obesity.
Scoring is as follows: 0 – No evidence of plaque; 1-10 – Minimal plaque; 11-100 – Mild plaque; 101-400 – Moderate plaque; >400 – Extensive plaque
The risks of the procedure are primarily that of a limited amount of radiation. The dose is similar to about 10 chest x-rays. Insurance frequently does not reimburse this procedure. Finally, this test does not detect soft plaque, a precursor to hard or calcified plaque, and thus does not exclude the presence of coronary artery disease with 100% confidence.