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The coronary arteries are the vessels that supply oxygen containing blood to the heart. The plaque that may be found in these arteries is a build-up of fat, calcium and other substances that can either narrow or close the arteries. Some symptoms of plaque build-up in these arteries may be chest pain, arm tingle, or back pain.

Cardiac Scoring, which is also known as Heart Scan, or Calcium Score, is a non-invasive CT scan of the heart. It will calculate your risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD) by measuring the amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries.

NOTE: A written referral is required by your doctor and can be faxed ahead of time to our office at 410-328-0124 or can be brought with you at the time of service.

Who performs the procedure?

The procedure is performed by a CT Technologist with the assistance of a Radiologist.

Where is the procedure performed?

The procedure is performed in the CT Department of University Imaging Center, located at 419 West Redwood St., Suite 110, Baltimore MD, 21201.

Why is this procedure performed?

This procedure is performed to check for any plaque or calcium build up in the coronary arteries which causes heart disease or can lead to a heart attack. Cardiac Scoring is a better predictor of coronary events than cholesterol screening or other risk factors.

Is there any prep for this procedure?

Patients should not wear any powder or lotion on their chests.

What can I expect before the procedure?

Once you arrive at the UIC, you will have to register at the front desk. You will be asked to pay for the procedure at this time. You may have to get changed into a gown if there is any metal on your clothing. The Technologist will explain the procedure to you and escort you to the CT room.

What can I expect during the procedure?

You will lie on your back on the CT table and EKG electrodes will be place on your chest to monitor your heart rate. The CT table will move in very small increments every few seconds and take pictures. You may be asked to hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds and you will need to hold perfectly still. Even though you will be left alone in the room the Technologist will watch you through a window and you will be able to speak to him or her.

How long is the procedure?

The scan takes approximately 20-30 seconds, but from start to finish it takes approximately 10-15 minutes.

What can I expect after the procedure?

After the procedure, you are free to go about your normal activity. A calcium score is calculated and converted to a percentile rank. The results from your cardiac scoring will be sent to your doctor.

What do my results mean?

Your likelihood of having heart disease or a heart attack depends on your calcium scoring. The lower your calcium score and percentile rank, the less likely you are to have heart disease or a heart attack compared to other men or women your age.

Medical scan of coronary calcium
Medical scan of coronary calcium

See the tables below for more information about your calcium score and percentile rank. If you have a high score, you can make an appointment with one of our coronary artery disease specialists.

Score Presence of plaque


No plaque is present. You have less than a 5% chance of having heart disease. Your risk of a heart attack is very low.

1 - 10

A small amount of plaque is present. You have less than a 10% chance of having heart disease. Your risk of a heart attack is low. However, you may want to quit smoking, eat better, and exercise more.

11 - 100

Plaque is present. You have mild heart disease. Your chance of having a heart attack is moderate. Talk with your doctor about quitting smoking, eating better, beginning an exercise program, and any other treatment you may need.

101 - 400

A moderate amount of plaque is present. You have heart disease, and plaque may be blocking an artery. Your chance of having a heart attack is moderate to high. Your health professional may want more tests and may start treatment.

Over 400

A large amount of plaque is present. You have more than a 90% chance that plaque is blocking one of your arteries. Your chance of having a heart attack is high. Your health professional will want more tests and will start treatment.

Cardiac Calcium Scoring Chart according to WebMD, 2007

The American Journal of Cardiology Vol. 87 June 15, 2001

Photo of electron beam tomographic

Are there any risks to this procedure?

CT emits a very low dose of radiation. This is why a written order from your physician is required.

Are there any alternatives to this procedure?

Cholesterol Testing, Stress Test, or Risk Factor Assessment are all alternatives to this procedure.

How do I schedule an appointment?

Please contact the Radiology Access Center at 410-328-3225 to schedule an appointment.