There are multiple tests to analyze the heart and your heart health. This week’s blog will focus on imaging tests that evaluate for blood flow in your coronary arteries, the vessels that supply your heart with blood and are responsible for heart attacks. These tests are the Coronary Artery Calcium Artery Score (CACS) and Coronary Artery Computerized Tomography Angiography (Coronary CTA). Both of these tests are diagnostic tools used in the evaluation of coronary artery disease (CAD) – the #1 killer of Americans – and provide valuable information about the heart’s health. However, they serve different purposes, provide different types of data, and have different indications. Let’s dive deeper:
CACS – Coronary Artery Calcium Score
The Coronary Calcium Scan, also known as the Coronary Artery Calcium Score (CACS), is a non-invasive CT scan of the heart that takes about 5 minutes to perform. It measures the amount of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries. Since calcium deposits can be an early sign of coronary artery disease, the CACS is a useful screening test for atherosclerosis. The test images the 4 main arteries of the heart and each is given a score based on the amount of calcium found. A perfect score is zero. Usually if calcium is found in the walls of the artery, the higher the score the greater the risk of having a heart attack in the future. However there are patients with an elevated calcium score that do not have significant plugging of the heart arteries.
CCTA – Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography
A Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA) is a more detailed CT scan that uses intravenous contrast to visualize the coronary arteries. It provides a very detailed view of the coronary arteries, allowing clinicians to identify areas of narrowing or blockage (stenosis) that could potentially cause a heart attack. Since the patient’s heart rate needs to be slow to get an accurate image, patients are often given an oral dose of a medicine called a beta-blocker to lower the pulse before the test. The benefits of this test are that it tells us exactly how open your coronary arteries are, if there are blockages, and where those blockages are located exactly.
How they differ:
While both tests provide valuable information, they have different indications. The CACS is primarily a screening tool used in asymptomatic patients to assess their risk of future cardiac events. It’s particularly useful in patients with intermediate risks for heart disease, where the decision to start specific preventive therapies might be unclear. The Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA) is predominantly used in patients with known atherosclerosis, cardiac symptoms, family history of cardiac disease, increased risk for heart attacks (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc) since the risk of occluded arteries is high.
What test is right for me?
Ready to take the next step with your heart health and find out which imaging modality is best for you? Contact the team at Synergy Longevity Centers here to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family.