Overview

The Most Advanced Cardiac Imaging

Imaging plays a critical role in diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases. Tests such as echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound), nuclear cardiology, and invasive angiography (heart catheterization) are commonly employed techniques. 

Depending upon your medical conditions and symptoms, your physician may refer you for specialized testing using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT, or “CAT” scan) scanners.  The Overlake advanced cardiovascular team is led by Joel Wilson, MD, a sub-specialty trained cardiologist, using state-of-the-art equipment and techniques.

Cardiovascular MRI

Cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a painless test that uses radiofrequency waves, magnetic fields and a computer to create detailed anatomic imaging of the heart. Cardiovascular MRI is noninvasive, and does not expose you to any ionizing radiation. Cardiac MRI assesses several areas of your heart, including:

  • Heart function and anatomy
  • Heart muscle abnormalities
  • Valves
  • Aorta
  • Pulmonary vein anatomy
  • Blood supply to heart muscle

Your cardiologist may order a cardiac MRI if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Chest pain
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmia
  • Pericardial (heart sac) abnormalities
  • Congenital cardiac disease
  • Aortic disease
  • Cardiac masses

Cardiovascular MRI is covered by most insurances. 

What to Expect: Before, During & After Your Cardiovascular MRI

The following are general guidelines for any advanced cardiovascular imaging test you'll have. Please note there may be additional instructions for your specific test.

Before Your Cardiovascular MRI

  • You'll receive a referral for your test from your cardiologist.
  • You’ll have a consultation with your cardiologist, who will describe what the test involves.
  • Our scheduler will call you to schedule the test. Your test will usually be scheduled within 10 days of the order being placed.
  • Unless directed, take all of your medications.
  • Arrive at the West Tower imaging desk (near the hospital gift shop) at least 20 minutes before your appointment.

During Your Cardiovascular MRI

  • You’ll lie on your back on the scan table with your arms at your sides
  • Your technologist will insert an IV and inject contrast fluid during your exam.
  • We’ll place a heart monitor on your chest to capture your heart rhythm during the exam.
  • We’ll place a receiver coil on your chest, which is like a lightweight vest.
  • You’ll receive a noise-reducing headset to wear, through which your technologist will communicate with you.
  • Your technologist can see and hear you throughout your exam.
  • You will be asked to hold your breath at times, usually for 15 seconds or less at a time.
  • our MRI should last about an hour.

After Your Cardiovascular MRI

  • Your results will be sent to your ordering/primary care physician within 48 hours of your test.
  • You will receive a copy of your results electronically through our patient portal, ONE Chart, 14 days from the time of your test.
  • You will typically have a follow-up visit already arranged with your cardiologist to explain your test results.

Cost

Cardiovascular MRI is covered by most insurance plans.

Cardiovascular CT

A Cardiovascular  computerized tomography (CT) uses x-ray to provide a highly detailed view of your heart. We offer two types of cardiac CT tests: coronary calcium scan and coronary CT angiogram (CTA).

Coronary Calcium Scan

Many people with heart disease will not have symptoms. Coronary arteries are the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. As plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, calcium deposits start to form inside the plaque. CT scans can detect these calcium deposits (“hard plaque”) in the arteries without using IV contrast. The amount of coronary calcium can be measured and is reported as a “calcium score.” Your calcium score along with your age, gender, and risk factors can be used to estimate the severity of coronary disease in patients before you develop symptoms of heart disease.  This information can help guide preventative therapy.

The coronary calcium scan typically takes less than 30 minutes. It is painless and does not require an IV or contrast.

Your primary care physician or cardiologist may order this test if you have risk factors such as:

  • Family history of heart disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • High-stress lifestyle.
  • Lack of a regular exercise program.
  • Obesity.
  • Smoking.
  • Age 45 or greater.

What to Expect Before, During and After Your Coronary Calcium Scan

Before Your Coronary Calcium Scan

  • You’ll receive a referral for this test from your cardiologist or primary care physician.
  • Our scheduler will call you to schedule the test. Your test will usually be scheduled within 10 days of the order being placed.
  • Take all of your regular medications as directed.
  • Arrive at the imaging desk in the Medical Office Tower in Suite 110  at least 20 minutes before your appointment.

During Your Coronary Calcium Scan

  • You’ll lie on an exam table on your back, usually with your hands over your head.
  • You’ll be asked to remain still and at to hold your breath during the scan.
  • The exam table will move, and the scanner will take images of your heart.
  • Your technologist will be able to see and hear you during the scan.
  • The scan takes about 10 minutes.

After Your Coronary Calcium Scan

  • Your results will be sent to your ordering/primary care physician within 48 hours of your test
  • You will receive a copy of your results electronically through our patient portal, ONE Chart, 14 days from the time of your test

Interpreting Your Results

You will receive a “coronary calcium” score:

0 = No detectable “hard plaque”
<10 = Minimal coronary artery calcification (CAC)
10 – 100 = Mild CAC
100 – 400 = Moderate CAC
>400 = Severe CAC

You will also receive a percentile score. This lets you know whether you have more or less coronary calcium than an average non-diabetic person your age. A higher percentile score indicates a greater amount of coronary artery disease than would be expected for your age.  An “average” percentile score for someone your age would be a 50th percentile score.

In most cases you will have a follow-up appointment with your ordering physician to review your results. 

Cost

  • Coronary calcium scan is covered by most insurance plans.
  • If your insurance denies coverage for this test, a price is available for cash payers.

Coronary CT Angiogram

A coronary computer tomography angiogram (CTA) uses a state-of-the-art scanner and computer to create 3D images of your heart and coronary blood vessels. It is the most accurate noninvasive test to detect coronary artery disease, providing your physician with a more precise image of your blood vessels than an MRI, stress test or ultrasound can.

It can be used:

  • Instead of a stress test to detect coronary artery disease (CAD) for patients who are having symptoms such as chest pain or breathlessness.
  • To detect congenital heart anomalies.

Because this test uses IV contrast, it can detect two different types of plaque in the arteries, calcified (“hard plaque”) and non-calcified (“soft plaque”). Both types are associated with heart attacks. Identifying these blockages early allows treatment to be more effective.

What to Expect Before, During and After your Coronary CT Angiogram

Before Your Coronary CT Angiogram

  • You’ll receive a referral for this test from your cardiologist.
  • Arrive at the West Tower imaging desk (near the hospital gift shop) at least 20 minutes before your appointment.
  • Entire test lasts approximately one hour from check-in to discharge.
  • Unless directed otherwise, take all medications as prescribed.
  • You will be given an additional medication to take before your test to slow your heart rate down.
  • Your technologist will insert an IV in your arm.

During Your Coronary CT Angiogram

  • You’ll lie on an exam table, on your back, with your hands over your head.
  • We’ll place three monitoring wires on your chest to monitor your heart rate.
  • You’ll receive additional medication to increase the blood flow to your heart.
  • The scanner will take pictures of your heart, and you may be asked to hold your breath briefly for parts of this exam.
  • Your technologist will inject contrast fluid into your IV while pictures of your heart are taken.
  • The scan takes between 15-30 minutes

After Your Coronary CT Angiogram

  • Your results will be sent to your ordering/primary care physician within 48 hours of your test.
  • You will receive a copy of your results electronically through our patient portal, ONE Chart, 14 days from the time of your test.
  • In most instances, you’ll have a follow-up visit with your cardiologist or primary care provider to explain your test results.

Cost

Cardiovascular CT is covered by most insurance plans.