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Know Your Heart

Ask your doctor about a heart scan — now only $99.

Before my dad died of heart problems, I promised him I’d get regular check-ups. That’s how a heart scan found alarmingly high amounts of calcium in my arteries. I was able to get an angiogram that very same day. I appreciate the urgency, thoroughness and care that the cardiology team provided.
- Dan Tembreull

A heart scan (coronary calcium scan) is a low dose computed tomography (CT) scan of the heart. The primary purpose of the test is to evaluate for calcified plaque in the arteries of the heart. Studies have shown that this calcium has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack.

People get heart scans for many reasons. Some have a family history of heart problems, or others are shaken due to a recent heart event that happened to a friend. Most of all, they get a scan for peace of mind.

Is a heart scan right for you?

Ask yourself these questions:

____ Family history of heart disease?
____ Personal history of high blood pressure?
____ Personal history of high cholesterol?
____ Personal history of cigarette smoking?
____ Personal history of obesity?
____ Personal history of diabetes?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider a simple, non-invasive heart scan.

We do not recommend heart scans for men younger than 40 years, women younger than 45 years, or those with known coronary artery disease (the buildup of plaque inside artery walls).

What is the cost?

The cost is $99. Most health plans do not cover the cost because it’s considered a screening test. However, you can be reimbursed through a flexible spending account (FSA), health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA).

What does the test look for?

The test looks for calcified plaque in the heart arteries. Plaque in the heart arteries starts as soft plaque made up of cholesterol and lipids. Over time, this plaque calcifies as your body tries to stabilize it. The test will identify and quantify the presence of this plaque. The results help your doctor determine your risk of having a heart attack and if early intervention with medications and/or additional testing is needed.

How long will the test take?

The test will take about 15 minutes or less from the time you arrive until the time you finish.

What do you need to prepare for the test?

No prior preparation is needed. Tests take place at the CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

What happens during the test?

After you arrive, you will go to our CT scanning room and lie on the CT table. We will place electrodes on your chest so we can monitor your heart rate during the test. We will ask you to hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds while obtaining the images.

Once the technologist is sure that all the information is gathered, you will be free to leave and return to your normal activities.

Does the test require intravenous (IV) contrast?

No.

How long is the actual scan for those worried about being claustrophobic?

You'll only be under the camera for a few minutes. The pictures themselves only take a few seconds. The tube you will lay in is 30 inches (2½ feet) wide, which is large enough to fit most body shapes and sizes comfortably.

Is a doctor’s order needed?

You will need a doctor’s order for this test before we can schedule you for a heart scan. A doctor’s order is needed because the test emits a low dose of radiation — about the amount of 15 chest X-rays or a round trip flight from Minnesota to Europe. Please contact your doctor about getting this order. Most primary care doctors write the order the same day or the next day. Once we receive your doctor’s order, we will call you to schedule your test.

When will you get the results?

Your primary care doctor should contact you within 3-5 business days to explain your results.

If you are interested in a heart scan, what are the next steps you need to take to get one?

  1. If you have questions about a heart scan, please call us at 320-656-7020 or email heartscanscheduling@centracare.com.
  2. If you have no questions, call your primary care doctor and ask him or her to place an order for a "CT Cardiac Calcium Score." Your doctor can also fax the order to the CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center at 320-255-5714.
  3. Once we receive your doctor’s order, we will call you to schedule an appointment. If you don’t hear from us within three business days, please call your doctor to see if the order has been placed.

Call the Heart & Vascular Center at 320-656-7020