Selected Podcast

The Benefits of Heart Disease Screening

Sara Sturmer explains what heart disease screening is and what the benefits are.
The Benefits of Heart Disease Screening
Featured Speaker:
Sara Sturmer
Sara Sturmer is the Medical Imaging Manager.

Melanie Cole, MS (Host):   Welcome. This is Stoughton Health Talk. I'm Melanie Cole and today we’re discussing heart disease screening. Joining me is Sara Sturmer. She’s the medical imaging manager at Stoughton Health. Sara I'm so glad to have you join us today. What kind of heart disease screening do you do?

Sara Sturmer Manager (Guest):   We are offering the CT cardiac calcium scoring.

Host:   What is that?

Sara:   It is a simple and easy test. It’s a low dose CT scan of the coronary arteries to determine if they are blocked or narrowed by plaque buildup.

Host:   So tell us a little bit about the benefits of this and are there any risks?

Sara:   The benefits are finding calcium or plaque in the arteries in the early states in regards to patients who have no symptoms or displaying any symptoms at all. The risk involved, it’s a low dose CT scan, so there is a little bit of risk involved from a radiation standpoint, but it typically is about the same amount of radiation you received in an annual timeframe just walking on the earth.

Host:   So tell us a little bit about who should get this. You mentioned somebody who is asymptomatic, who doesn’t have symptoms. What age are the people that generally would be getting this? Are there some risk factors or indications for this test? Is it just something the doctor can order out of the blue? Tell us a little bit about who can get it.

Sara:   Sure. So in general men over 40 and women over 50 again with no symptoms and one of the following risk factors. So high cholesterol, family history with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, someone with a history of cigarette smoking, someone who is overweight or obese, and/or physically inactive.

Host:   So then what’s it like? You mentioned that it’s low dose CT scan and that it’s pretty simple. Do they have to fast before it? What is the day like when they get this?

Sara:   Sure. So when you come in for a calcium scoring exam, you would lay on our CT table. You're laying on your back with your arms above your head. We hook you up to EKG connections just like we would for heart monitoring device, and we watch for a normal rhythm. We wait for a normal kind of stable rhythm on our machine. Then once we have that, we’re able to scan. So what we do then is the table moves into the CT scanner or the little donut circle and it does a quick scan. You would be here for about 15 minutes from start to finish and really once that scan is done you're able to leave. The technologist then will create the report and results. They give it to the radiologist that then provides a dictation or an interpretation of the exam to the providers.

Host:   How cool is that? So does it even scan the legs so that you can see if there’s calcium building up in the legs, which would cause peripheral arterial disease? Is it just of the heart? Does the scan go over the whole body?

Sara:   So the scan that we are doing for the calcium scoring is only of the heart. So it’s a small section of scans that we need in order to put it into our software and that helps us identify where the plaque is at.

Host:   What's the next step for somebody if they are told that they have a risk? I mean you mentioned that a radiologist reads it. So how is it sorted out, staged as it were, and what’s the next step for someone? Who do they turn to if they're told they do have some plaque?

Sara:   So they would turn to their ordering provider, their primary care provider who would help identify the next steps. So the next steps could be being referred onto a cardiologist to discuss with them their risk factors and their concerns for their score. Otherwise their provider might just walk through all of their history and their health habits and advise them and give them some direction on how they can improve or kind of reduce that risk of getting any further. They can actually change their symptoms.

Host:   So how does somebody get this kind of an appointment Sara?

Sara:    Sure. They would need to reach out to their ordering provider or their primary care provider and let them know that they are interested in having a heart calcium scoring performed. We need a physician order. So if the physician is supportive of that they will go ahead and place an order for us.

Host:   It’s great information. Before we wrap up, what would you like listeners to know about what you do for a living and the CT calcium scoring and reducing their risk for heart disease?

Sara:   My best advice is to talk to your primary care provider who can help you create a plan and help you manage a healthy lifestyle. Understanding your risks can be a great incentive to making changes.

Host:   Well it certainly can. Thank you so much for joining us and telling us about this very interesting test that can help check for heart disease and how important it is for people with those risk factors that you mentioned to inquire with their primary care providers about getting this test. Thank you again. That concludes this episode of Stoughton Health talk. Please visit our website at for more information on the calcium scoring test and to get connected with one of our providers. Please remember to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast and all the other Stoughton Health podcasts. I'm Melanie Cole.