Staying abreast of new technology and testing is vital for our practices as nurse practitioners. The Coronary Artery Calcium Scan is a relatively new test that became available about five years ago. It is gaining popularity as more patients are unhappy with their cholesterol levels and/or statin use.
The scan is a computerized tomography test that takes about 5 minutes, is not invasive, and requires no preparation or medication.
The CAC can be done in many states without a provider’s order, and insurance does not cover the cost. However, it gives us a score based on the calcification of cardiac arteries as identified on the CT. Ideally, the CAC score will be zero, reflecting no arterial calcification; however, any score less than 100 is considered acceptable. A score between 100-400 indicates a moderate risk of a CV event, while a score greater than 400 means there is a pretty high risk of an event due to significant plaque buildup in the arteries.
If elevated, you can do some teaching to help your patient understand the contributing factors like hypertension, inflammation, elevated glucose and/or insulin levels, and even high calcium supplementation intake.
Although many states don’t require an order for this test, it is easy to order and provides excellent information about cardiac health.
During a recent trip to the state fair (I know -it’s funny) we bought a package from Advanced Body Scan for a Cardio and Lung Scan. My husbands scan came back with significant calcification. Which lead to a trip to the cardiologist. For the first 5 minutes the cardiologist expounded upon how he didn’t believe in them, doesn’t understand them, etc. AND then he read my husbands report and saw were the areas of calcifications are (LAD and RCA) and his tune changed COMPLETELY. My husband is only 49 years old with no family history of early CAD. I had some suspicions that there could be calcium deposits somewhere in his body from an undiagnosed parathyroid tumor that was recently discovered and removed.