heart scan, chest pains

cut through view of heart, heart scan The Heart Scan-Heart CAT Scan is a test for early detection of heart disease. It measures and detects calcified plaque in the coronary arteries. The test uses advanced iscan technology.

This heart scan can help in the diagnosis of symptoms such as chest pain. It can also help determine a treatment plan for risk factors, even for patients without symptoms.

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During a heart CAT scan, an x-ray machine will move around your body in a circle. The machine will take a picture of each part of your heart. A computer will put the pictures together to make a three-dimensional (3D) picture of the whole heart.

Sometimes an iodine-based dye (contrast dye) is injected into one of your veins during the scan. The contrast dye travels through your blood vessels, which helps highlight them on the x-ray pictures.

The heart CAT scan is a common test for early diagnosis of calcified coronary plaque and for monitoring the progression of plaque. It can also help in chest pain diagnosis. It is used for finding and/or evaluating:

  • Calcified plaque buildup in the walls of the coronary arteries. This type of heart scan is sometimes also referred to as a heart calcium scan. Heart calcium in the coronary arteries may be an early sign of coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease. In CHD, a fatty substance called plaque (plak) narrows the coronary (heart) arteries and limits blood flow to the heart muscle.

  • If contrast dye is used during the heart scan, it helps highlight the coronary arteries on the x-ray pictures. This can show whether the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked (which may be a chest pain cause or heart attack cause).

  • Problems with heart function and heart valves. Doctors may recommend heart scan with contrast for more detailed evaluation of certain abnormalities noted with 2D echocardiography.

  • Problems with the aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. A heart scan with contrast can detect two serious problems in the aorta:
    • Aneurysm (AN-u-rism). An aneurysm is a diseased area of a blood vessel wall that bulges out. Aneurysms can be life threatening if they burst.

    • Dissection. Dissection can occur if the layers of the aortic artery wall peel away from each other. This condition can cause chest pain and may be life threatening.


Adapted from National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, November 2009