Illustration of heart Scan with body in blue color and heart and arteries in red, purple and bright blue colors

As we grow older, it’s essential to stay on top of our health. That means eating better, getting exercise and taking advantage of preventative medicine and scans that will detect problems before they become major issues. Blocked arteries are one of the things that can be caught early, which can help to prevent heart attacks, strokes and other complications related to heart disease. But how can you catch this significant risk factor early? Will a CT scan show blocked arteries? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a CT Scan?

CT is short for computerized tomography. It involves using a series of x-rays that are combined to create detailed 3D images of key organs, tissues, bones and other parts of the body without the use of invasive procedures. It is an essential diagnostic tool for physicians and other healthcare professionals.

CT scans are quick and easy and generally don’t involve much preparation, depending on the type of scan you need. They can be used to detect a variety of things, including plaque buildup in the arteries with a coronary calcium score.

Atherosclerosis is a condition that occurs when deposits build up inside the walls of the arteries. This is a significant risk factor for heart disease. However, you probably won’t know if you have plaque building up in your arteries until it’s too late. That is why it is a good idea to ask your doctor if a CT scan is right for you.

CT Scans Versus Stress Tests To Detect Clogged Arteries

According to a study by Johns Hopkins University¹, research shows that CT scans are effective for detecting the risk of developing clogged arteries. The study compared people who received CT scans to people who got stress tests. Interestingly, the results of the study showed that CT scans were more effective for detecting the signs of heart disease than stress tests. In fact, CT scans were able to detect about 96 percent of heart disease cases, whereas stress tests were only able to detect 80 percent of heart disease cases.

Why Get a CT Scan?

Because early detection can help you avoid a heart attack and save your life, the American Heart Association recommends a CT scan for anyone who shows signs of heart disease or has risk factors for developing heart disease. These may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history of heart disease

These are just some of the things that can put you at risk for developing heart disease. However, it is possible for you to have a heart attack without having any of the classic heart disease risk factors. Many patients do not know that they have heart problems until they have a heart attack. That is why a CT scan may be recommended. It only takes about 15 minutes to catch the potential for a fatal blockage in your arteries.

How Does a CT Scan Detect Blocked Arteries?

CT scanning technology has come a long way from where it started. The imaging is so detailed that doctors can use CT scans to measure the amount of calcium buildup in a patient’s arteries. The process of a calcium score test using a CT scanner includes:

  • The scanner sends x-rays through the body
  • Electronic x-ray detectors in the machine capture the x-rays
  • The CT scanner processes the data and creates cross-sectional images
  • These images are then reassembled to create clear 3D pictures of the blood vessels and heart

Your doctor will use the images to evaluate your risk of suffering a heart attack or other heart-related issues. If you have a high risk of developing heart disease, your healthcare professional may recommend medication and lifestyle changes to reduce your chances of blocked arteries.

How to Prepare for Your Heart CT Scan

Your doctor will give you a list of specific things that you need to do in order to prepare for a CT scan. You should take your medication as prescribed unless your doctor tells you otherwise. However, you should not consume caffeine four hours prior to your procedure. You will also need to avoid smoking for at least four hours. Caffeine and nicotine can increase your heart rate, which will interfere with the test results.

Is It Safe For You to Get a CT Scan?

It is safe for most people to get a CT scan. However, if you are getting radiation therapy or pregnant, you will need to let your doctor know. You may have to postpone getting a CT scan. Your doctor will recommend that you get a CT scan if the benefits of it outweigh the potential risks. You will be exposed to a small amount of radiation during the procedure. However, this is not likely to cause harm.

Radiation exposure can increase the risk of cancer in people who are over the age of 40. However, limiting the amount of CT scans you get or using a low-dose CT scanner, such as the SOMATOM go.All used here at Preventative Diagnostic Center, will reduce radiation exposure.

Discussing Your CT Scans Results With Your Physician

Your doctor will talk to you about the results of your heart CT scan. The specific recommendations will depend on the results of the test. There may not be any change to the treatment plan that you are currently on. However, your doctor may suggest that you make changes to your exercise and diet routine. A healthy lifestyle will not only protect you from heart disease, but it can also reverse the effects of heart disease. In some cases, doctors recommend additional tests in order to confirm the findings of the CT scan.

Preventative Diagnostic Center in Las Vegas offers affordable heart CT scans with calcium score testing, making it easier than ever to take control of your health now. To learn more, contact our team today!


¹Johns Hopkins Medicine. (26 October 2015). Heart CT Scans Outperform Stress Tests in Spotting Clogged Arteries. Retrieved 30 May 2021

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