Coronary CTA and calcium scoring exams are life saving

By Peter Kouveliotes M.D.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is responsible for more deaths than all cancers combined.According to the American Heart Association, about every 34 seconds an American will have a coronary event, and about one person every minute will die from one. Each year, an estimated 635,000 Americans had a new heart attack, and 280,000 had a recurrent attack. It is estimated that an additional 150,000 silent first heart attacks occur each year.Although heart disease is America’s No. 1 killer, the good news is early detection with noninvasive exams such as calcium scoring and coronary CT angiography (CCTA) can help physicians in detecting heart disease before a heart attack can happen.

Your chances of developing coronary heart disease can be lowered by modifying your diet and lifestyle and controlling risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and tobacco use.

Calcium scoring is a type of CT exam that is used to evaluate patients for coronary artery disease.This quick and easy test is to evaluate for calcified “hard” plaque in the coronary arteries. It can be used as a screening test for patients with no symptoms but risk factors for coronary artery disease.The test requires no special preparation and takes about five minutes to perform.There is a strong correlation between coronary calcium score and the risk for heart attack and death due to coronary artery disease.This is especially true for high scores, >400. Normal coronary scoring, a score of 0 or no coronary calcium, is associated with a very low risk of significant coronary artery disease.

CCTA is a special type of CT exam that is quick, noninvasive and virtually painless. It is used to evaluate the heart and the coronary arteries.With the latest advances in high resolution 64 Slice CT scanners, amazingly detailed and accurate 3-D images of the heart can be obtained.The patient is prepared for the exam by lowering the heart rate with the help of medicine if needed.The patient is asked not to eat the morning of the exam and to refrain from caffeine for the 24 hours before the exam.The patient lies down on the CT table and an IV is placed in the arm or hand and monitors are placed on the chest wall. Contrast is injected to highlight the coronary arteries.The whole process takes about 15 minutes and the patient can return to work right after the exam.The CCTA not only evaluates for hard plaque, but it also evaluates the artery walls and soft or vulnerable plaque.This test can discover coronary artery disease that could lead to a heart attack.

Many physicians advocate CCTA for patients with a low to moderate risk for coronary artery disease and symptoms such as chest pain not brought on by physical activity. CCTA is also appropriate for patients with inconclusive stress test results. CCTA can also be used to evaluate people after bypass surgery.

Patients should discuss risk factors with their physicians, since a prescription is necessary for a coronary CTA or calcium scoring exam.

At Freehold MR Associates, these CT exams are monitored and evaluated by a specially trained radiologist. The interpreting radiologists have years of experience and have undergone extensive training in coronary CT angiography.The results of your exam will be reported to your primary care physician or cardiologist within 24 hours.

Dr. Peter Kouveliotes has attained the highest level of coronary CTA certification from the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography. He is on staff at Freehold Radiology Group, Freehold MR Associates, and CentraState Medical Center. Freehold MR Associates have locations in Marlboro and Freehold. For more information or to schedule an appointment for a coronary CTA scan, or calcium scoring, call 888-374-2778 (FRG-APPT) or visit