Coronary Calcium Scan
Ascension Sacred Heart Offers Scan to Identify Risk for Heart Disease
Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola is now providing an imaging test that can identify coronary heart disease in its initial stages by measuring buildup of calcium-containing plaque in the coronary arteries.
Sacred Heart is offering the coronary calcium scan to persons in certain population groups who have a physician’s referral. The calcium heart scan uses a computed tomography (CT) scanner and takes less than 10 seconds. The scan takes multiple pictures of the heart that can reveal specks of hardened calcified plaque that are an early sign of cardiovascular disease.
Sacred Heart is part of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S.
“Coronary calcium scans are a very useful tool in understanding a person’s risk for heart disease and heart attack,” said Dr. James Williams, a cardiologist with Sacred Heart Cardiovascular Specialists. “Plaque inside the arteries of your heart can build up to narrow the arteries and restrict flow of blood to the heart or unexpectedly cause a blood clot to form, which is the usual mechanism of heart attacks. Depending on the findings of the scan, your doctor may recommend medication and/or lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart attack.”
The scan is painless and does not require an intravenous injection. It does involve a small amount of radiation exposure, similar to the amount from a mammogram, or the amount of background radiation a person normally receives from the environment over four months.
Williams said appointments with Sacred Heart Cardiovascular Specialists will be available for patients with elevated coronary calcium scores.
The test is not recommended for everyone. A person who is under age 40 or has a very low risk of heart disease generally does not need one. In addition, the test is not intended for a person who already has heart disease or persons who are at very high risk for coronary heart disease and clearly need preventive therapy. In both of those cases, the test results are unlikely to change the recommended treatment.
Interested persons should ask their doctor about ordering a calcium heart scan at Sacred Heart Hospital. Consumers also may call (850) 416-4003 to speak to a cardiology nurse who can make a referral for the test if appropriate.
In 2018, Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola was named as a 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospital by IBM Watson Health. The top cardiac care hospitals in the IBM Watson study were able to consistently produce better outcomes at a lower cost per case than non-winning hospitals.