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Electron-Beam Computed Tomography
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Electron-Beam Computed Tomography Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


Electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT) is a fast and sensitive test for detecting calcium build-up in the arteries of the heart. It uses an electron “gun” instead of regular x-rays to scan the chest.

The amount of calcium build-up in the arteries will give your doctor an idea of whether a condition known as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) has developed. This condition can lead to narrowing of the arteries, heart attack , stroke , and other serious conditions.

Varying Degrees of Atherosclerosis in Coronary Arteries
Varying Degrees of Atherosclerosis in Coronary Arteries
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Your doctor will discuss your health and medical history, including any risk factors you have for CHD. This will help your doctor determine if EBCT screening is right for you.

Description of Test

You will be asked to lie down on a padded table under an arch-shaped scanner. You may remain clothed and your head will not be enclosed at any time. The scanner moves over your body and takes pictures of your internal organs. During the scan, you will be asked to hold your breath at times to help you remain motionless. A radiographer who runs the scan will be with you to answer any questions or concerns.

After Test

You will be able to leave after the test is done.

How Long Will It Take?

The procedure takes about 10-15 minutes. The actual scanning time is only a few seconds.

Will It Hurt?



The EBCT software measures the calcium deposits in your arteries. This is called the calcification score. Depending on your score, your doctor will discuss any measures you should take to decrease your risk of CHD, such as exercising more or taking medicine. Your doctor may also recommend more testing or surgery if your score is very high.



American College of Cardiology

American College of Radiology


Canadian Cardiovascular Society

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


American College of Radiology website. Available at: . Accessed December 1, 2006.

Computer imaging/tomography. American Heart Association website. Available at: . Accessed December 1, 2006.

Electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT or helical or fast CT for determining cardiac calcification). Advanced Medical Technology Association website. Available at: . Accessed December 1, 2006.

Electron-beam tomography scan. British Heart Foundation website. Available at: . Accessed December 1, 2006.

O’Rourke R, Brundage B, Froelicher V, et al. American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association expert consensus document on electron-beam computed tomography for the diagnosis and prognosis of coronary artery disease. Circulation. 2000;102:126.



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