This test uses a special computed tomography (CT) scan to show the amount of hardening of the artery wall (atherosclerosis) that has occurred in your heart, and is used to ascertain your risk of a heart attack or stroke within the next 5-10 years. Coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle can have fat and inflammation cells deposited in their inner layers. Over time these inflamed deposits accumulate calcium and may get large enough to cause significant blockages of the arteries.
The injection of a contrast agent allows for non-invasive assessment of any significant narrowing of the heart arteries by detecting both hard calcific narrowings as well as softer, fatty deposits that may exist. CT coronary angiography is recommended by The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as the investigation of choice in patients in whom coronary disease.
The test uses a recording of the electrical pulses from your heart every time it beats using an electrocardiagram (ECG) to control processing of the scan images. The procedure is straightforward, with electrode patches attached to your chest for the ECG wires. You will then be asked to lie down on a table and hold your breath while it and you move through the X-ray machine that takes images of your heart. Once the radiographer has checked the scan was successful, you are free to leave the clinic, unless other tests have been scheduled.
Your consultant will review the scan before deciding on what further treatment (if any) is needed. The amount of calcium seen can also be used to predict your future risk of heart attacks.