Some doctors call the heart scan procedure the "mammogram of the heart" because of its capability of detecting heart disease at an early stage. However, other doctors feel that more studies should be conducted before this becomes a widely used screening technique.
The Heart Scan Procedure
The heart scan is a simple non-invasive test used for early detection of heart disease. With early detection and modifying your risk factors, the potential for advanced heart disease may be significantly reduced and in some cases reversed.
The heart scan is a painless test that takes about 10 minutes. The process is similar to taking an x-ray of your body. An individual lies on the scanner table and multiple images of the heart are taken. A qualified physician then interprets these images to determine the amount of calcified plaque in the arteries.
The heart scan may be appropriate for men 35 or older and women 40 or older with any one of the following risk factors. Younger individuals with any of the following risk factors may also be considered:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- History of tobacco use
- Family history of heart disease
- Overweight or obese
- Significant emotional or job-related stress
How does the Heart Scan detect Heart Disease?
The heart scan does not determine whether or not you are going to have a heart attack. Rather, the heart scan detects calcified plaque in the arteries of the heart. Calcified plaque is an indicator of heart disease. Soft plaque or non-calcified deposits are also predictors of heart disease however, these cannot be detected by a Heart Scan or any other non-invasive test. So even if the Heart Scan determines that you do not have any calified plaque there is still a risk that you have soft plaque or non-calcified plaque.
Background on Heart Disease
Heart Disease is the #1 cause of death and disability in the United States. Unfortunately, in many cases, the first sign of heart disease may be a heart attack and possibly death.
Heart disease and heart attacks are caused by a process called atherosclerosis, often referred to as "hardening of the arteries". As we grow older, cholesterol particles deposit themselves in the walls of our blood vessels. This gradual buildup of cholesterol is collectively referred to as "plaque". When plaque gets big enough, it can obstruct blood flow or it can become unstable and the plaque can rupture and cause a heart attack. This process of forming plaque occurs in almost everyone, often starting as early as the teen years. However, it usually takes many years before the plaques are large enough to actually cause a problem.
For more information on heart disease contact:
The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health agency to help reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Why Get a Heart Scan?
A heart scan is used "screening" of heart disease and cancer. In medicine, "screening" means looking for a medical condition in a person showing no symptoms in the hope of identifying problems early, when treatment can be most effective. There are many screening tests that look for different abnormalities. For example, a very popular screening test for women is the mammogram. Most mammograms are done on women who do not have a lump in the breast or other evidence of breast cancer; it is done as a preventive measure in hopes of catching breast cancer at an early stage. The heart scan is based on the same theory - early detection.
How long does a heart scan take?
The heart scan approximately takes about 10-15 minutes.
What is the cost of a heart scan?
The average cost of a heart scan is $500.
By ScanDirectory.com Staff
Updated: May 4, 2007