Every 36 seconds, one person dies from heart-related complications in the
United States. Typically, individuals don’t realize they have any
heart issues until a serious incident occurs, such as a heart attack;
but a new screening test offered at the
Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus is helping to change that.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately
one in four deaths is caused by heart disease. Coronary Artery Calcium
(CAC) testing is a screening used to reveal artery-clogging calcifications
early on, usually before any other warning signs are present. This allows
time for the development of a preventative treatment plan based on the
results of the test.
A painless test, CAC requires a computed tomography (CT) scan of the heart
while sensors, called electrodes, are attached to the patient’s
chest. The electrodes record the heartbeat during the exam to show the
radiologic technologist when the heart muscles are relaxed in between
heartbeats, ensuring the clearest images are captured. After the scan
is complete, the patient is able to go home; their doctor will be able
to provide test results within a few days.
CAC results are usually given as an Agaston score. This score represents
the level and density of the calcium deposits. When there is no calcium
found in the heart, a score of zero is given. The more calcium found,
the higher the score. Depending on the score, the doctor will discuss
probable treatment plans with the patient to decide which strategies should
be implemented. Treatment for non-emergent scores may include changes
to diet and exercise routine, medication, setting weight-loss goals, or
CAC is a cash exam with payment due either prior to or at the time of service.
If you are a male over the age of 40, a female over the age of 50, or
if you smoke, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes,
are overweight, or have a family history of heart disease, ask your doctor
about cardiac artery calcium testing.