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Coronary Calcium Screening: A Simple Test to Prevent Heart Attack

Written by John Steuter, MD

A coronary calcium screening is a test that looks for areas of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries, which could ultimately cause a heart attack.
Calcifications in the coronary arteries are an early sign of atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries. Over time, plaque can harden or rupture. Hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain or discomfort called angina.

If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surface. A large blood clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. This is the most common cause of a heart attack. Over time, ruptured plaque also hardens and narrows the coronary arteries.

A coronary calcium screening is a simple test offered at Bryan Medical Center. This test can determine a patient’s risk of heart attack based on the build-up of coronary calcium. The test is only $119.

coronary calcium screening infographic

What Your Patients Can Expect During a Coronary Calcium Screening

  1. Patients lie quietly in the CAT scanner machine for about 10 minutes while it takes pictures of the heart
  2. The pictures will show whether there are calcifications in the coronary arteries
  3. The coronary calcium scan provides a score that estimates a patient’s five and 10-year risk of having a heart attack using risk calculators. This score is sent to the patient’s primary care doctor to review with the patient

calcium scoring guidelines

If needed, the primary care doctor can refer the patient to see a Bryan Heart cardiologist where treatment strategies can be then developed based on the patient’s risk.

Who Should Have a Coronary Calcium Screening?

Males ages 35-70 or females ages 40-70, who have not had a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart disease, and have one or more of the following major risk factors for developing heart disease:

  • Total cholesterol over 200
  • LDL "bad" cholesterol over 130
  • HDL "good" cholesterol below 40
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • History of blocked arteries in the legs or pain in the calves when walking
  • History of stroke
  • Family history of premature coronary disease (parent, grandparent or sibling with heart attack or other coronary event before age 65)

Refer a Patient

A referral is not required for patients to schedule this test. If you have a patient that could benefit from this test, it can be scheduled by calling the Bryan Scheduling Center at 402-481-5121.

steuter john

About John Steuter, MD

John Steuter, MD, is a cardiologist at Bryan Heart. Steuter is a graduate of The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine and joined Bryan Heart in 2015 after completing his residency and fellowship at The University of Nebraska Medical Center. He is certified with the American Board of Internal Medicine.

View Dr. Steuter’s physician profile.

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