Medical Imaging That Helps Assess Heart Health


Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. Contributing factors include a poor diet, lack of exercise, and genetics. Most doctors tell patients that the way to better cardiac health is through medically proven methods of eating better, regular exercise and taking precautions if your family has a history of heart disease.

To detect and combat heart disease, scientists have developed a variety of medical technologies. Medical imaging is a common method for doctors to determine the probability of a patient developing a heart condition. Below is a look at the medical imaging modalities physicians use to assess cardiac health.

CT and CAT Scans for Calcium Scoring

One frequently used medical imaging exam for determining the condition of the heart is through a CT or CAT scan. CT scans use X-rays and computer equipment to produce cross-sectional images of the body, including several types of tissues such as muscles. At Doctors Imaging, we calibrate CT equipment to use the lowest amounts of radiation required for each exam.

A Calcium Scoring screening uses produces imaging of the coronary arteries to determine if they are blocked or narrowed by the buildup of plaque – an indicator for atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD). The information obtained can help evaluate whether you are at increased risk for heart attack.

A CT scan for coronary calcium is a non-invasive way of obtaining information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle.

Because calcium is a marker of CAD, the amount of calcium detected on a cardiac CT scan is a helpful prognostic tool. The findings on cardiac CT are expressed as a calcium score. Another name for this test is coronary artery calcium scoring.

A positive test means that CAD is present, regardless of whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms. The amount of calcification—expressed as the calcium score—may help to predict the likelihood of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in the coming years and helps your doctor decide whether you need preventive medicine or adopt diet and exercise changes to lower your risks. The extent of CAD is graded according to your calcium score:

Calcium Score Presence of CAD
0 No evidence of CAD
1-10 Minimal evidence of CAD
11-100 Mild evidence of CAD
101-400 Moderate evidence of CAD
Over 400 Extensive evidence of CAD

Carotid Ultrasounds Can Detect Vascular Problems

If your doctor is concerned about the possibility of a vascular problem leading to heart disease, he or she may order a carotid ultrasound exam. The body has two carotid arteries and if either one becomes compromised, you could go into cardiac arrest or stroke. Ifyou’re worried about your cardiac condition, an ultrasound exam is a safe and effective form of medical imaging. Ultrasound exams simply use sound waves and computer technology to create their images. This allows patients and doctors to see the flow of blood throughout the body in real-time, making it easier to determine the causes of problems and choose treatments.

MRIs Examine Coronary Pathways

MRIs provide another method that doctors sometimes use to test the heart and blood flow through the coronary pathways. MRIs use strong magnetic and radio waves to create images of the internal body.

All these tests are important for gauging your cardiac health. All patients and their symptoms are different. Your doctor will recommend the exam that is right for your needs.

Learn More About Medical Imaging

CT Scan for Calcium Scoring by RadiologyInfo.org