A free preventive cardiac CT screening test sponsored by Broward County

Brought to you by your Board of County Commissioners

A free preventive cardiac CT screening test sponsored by Broward County

Brought to you by your Board of County Commissioners

What is the Broward Heart Project? what's the goal?

One in every two men and one in every three women will suffer from cardiovascular disease in their lifetime. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide.

Most people are unaware of any blockage in their heart arteries. Once you become aware of such a blockage, there are a variety of solutions that can help to address the blockage and may reduce the risk of a heart attack or other medical complications.

The Broward County Commission has approved funding that will provide several thousand eligible Broward residents with a free cardiac CT screening test. This test can demonstrate whether a person has a blockage in their heart arteries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can participate?

You must meet certain requirements to be eligible to participate in this pilot program.

  • You must be a Broward County resident.
  • You must be 45 to 70 years of age.
  • You must have active health insurance (public or private).
  • You must meet certain risk criteria and other requirements that have been established by a panel of doctors. If you complete the questionnaire below and qualify, you can complete the application and provide your information. We will contact you within 3 to 5 business days to schedule your test.
What is the test?

The Broward Heart Project provides funding primarily for a coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA), which is essentially a CT scan of the heart. A blockage in your artery can lead to a heart attack and death.

The CCTA screening test uses an iodine-based intravenous contrast and a low level of radiation to show plaque in your cardiac arteries.

An alternative test, which may be available to otherwise eligible participants who are allergic to iodine or have other disqualifying criteria, is a CT calcium score test. A calcium score test does not require an injection of an iodine-based solution. However, a calcium score test only detects calcified (hardened) plaque, and does not show soft plaque.

Is there a charge for the test?

Participants in the Broward Heart Project will receive the screening test for free. However, this program does not provide any medical care, or payment or funding for any medical care, that may be needed or advisable as a result of the test.

Are there any risks?

As with any medical test, there is always a risk. For example, if a person is allergic to iodine, which is in the contrast material used in the CCTA test, that person can suffer an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can be as minor as a rash or as major as causing death. Participants who are allergic to iodine do not qualify for the CCTA test, but may qualify for a calcium score test.

In addition, like X-rays, the CCTA and calcium score tests include exposure to radiation and the related dangers of such exposure.


As with any medical testing, persons seeking to take the CCTA or calcium score test are encouraged to consult with their personal physician who can further explain the benefits and risks posed by the test.

Why is this test important?

Currently, common preventive medical tests covered by medical insurance include mammograms and colonoscopies. These tests are given for early detection of breast cancer and colon cancer. However, the leading cause of death is from cardiovascular diseases, but the two tests that can help identify cardiovascular diseases are often not covered by medical insurance, particularly where the person seeking the test does not present certain symptoms. The cardiac CT screenings provided by the Broward Heart Project can help determine whether you have blocked arteries. Appropriate risk assessment and treatment for cardiovascular diseases is known to save lives.

Why is it important to check for blockages?

A blockage in your heart arteries can lead to a heart attack and death. If a person learns they have a blockage in their heart arteries, steps can be taken, in consultation with the person’s physician, to reduce the risk and treat that person. By getting appropriate treatment and taking other preventive measures, a person can significantly reduce the risk of a heart attack.

When is the Broward Heart Project test available?

The test will be administered to eligible participants beginning in May of 2023 and is expected to continue through the end of 2024. Once you submit your information, you will be contacted if you qualify and your test will be scheduled at a participating hospital or medical facility. Due to the limited availability of CT machines in Broward County, it may take several months to get your test scheduled.

Who will administer the test?

We are working with Broward Health, Holy Cross, Baptist Health, and possibly other diagnostic centers in Broward County to provide the screening tests.

Do I need to sign anything first?

Every participant will be required to sign several documents, including appropriate acknowledgments of the risk, releases and limitations of liability, and permission to share medical information. These documents, which are common in connection with the provision of medical testing or services, does affect the legal rights of the participant.

Why do I need to have medical insurance if the test is free?

The test provided by the Broward Heart Project is free to the participant, and will not be charged or processed through the participant’s insurance coverage. However, depending upon the results of the test, certain follow-up care or action may be appropriate. Therefore, it is important that each participant have access to appropriate medical care after completion of the screening test, including so they can confer with their personal physician regarding the test results and any appropriate care, treatment, or lifestyle modifications.

Disclaimers

Broward County, the Broward Heart Project, and the County’s consultants, contractors, and employees are not providing medical advice or medical care or treatment in connection with the Broward Heart Project. The Broward Heart Project only provides funding for preventive screenings for willing, eligible participants. No person is obligated to participate in this program. Each eligible participant should consider the risks and consult with their advisors, including their personal physicians, regarding participation in the program. Each participant must agree to certain waivers, releases, and limitations of liability, and must grant certain permissions, prior to participating in the Project. There are risks associated with these screening tests. Each person should review the documents carefully before signing and agreeing to participate in the Project.

Cardiac CT Angiography (CCTA)

What is a Cardiac CT Angiography?

A Cardiac CT Angiography (CCTA) is a non-invasive diagnostic test that produces detailed 3D images of the arteries in the heart to detect abnormalities in how blood flows through the heart and to diagnose cardiovascular disease.

It is a type of computed tomography angiography (CTA) that combines a CT scan with an injection of a special dye to produce pictures of blood vessels and tissues in the heart.

During the test, a dye is injected through an intravenous (IV) line in the hand or arm, and computed tomography (CT), a combination of X-rays, is used to produce high resolution images of the heart when contrast dye is injected to highlight diseased areas.

Before the test, patients may receive an oral or IV medication (beta-blocker) to stabilize the heart rate and sublingual nitroglycerin medication to enlarge (dilate) the coronary arteries. These are generally safe medications that are administered under the supervision of a licensed healthcare provider.

CCTA is used to identify plaque and blockages or narrowing (stenosis) of the coronary arteries.

The interpretation of the results of a CCTA is typically done by a board-certified radiologist or cardiologist who specializes in interpreting medical images.

What are the risks associated with a CCTA?

CCTA involves exposure to radiation, and the amount of radiation used during the test is considered minimal, so the risk for radiation exposure is low. However, there is always a slight risk for cancer from repeated exposure to radiation, but the benefits of getting an accurate diagnosis generally outweigh the risks.

Women who are pregnant shouldn’t have a CCTA because of possible harm to an unborn child.

In addition to radiation exposure, there is a risk of an allergic or adverse reaction to the iodine-based material used as a contrast dye during the test.

Severe reactions can include difficulty breathing and cardiac arrest.

The risk of an allergic reaction is higher if the patient has had a previous reaction or if they have active asthma or other allergies.

Side effects from the administration of nitroglycerin may include a short-lasting headache and low blood pressure.

Again, it is important to note that the risks associated with a CCTA are generally low, and the benefits of the test in diagnosing heart conditions often outweigh the risks.

Patients should discuss any concerns they have about the risks of the test with their healthcare provider before undergoing the test.

How to prepare for a CCTA

To prepare for a CCTA, patients will be asked to avoid eating, smoking, or consuming caffeine 4 to 6 hours before the test. 

Drinking water and other clear liquids is encouraged in order to be well hydrated before the test.

Patients should also inform their healthcare provider if they are pregnant or have any allergies, especially to iodine-based contrast material

Male patients are required to stop taking erectile dysfunction medications (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis) 48 hours before the test, since those can cause a sudden dangerous drop in blood pressure. 

Patients may take all their other medications on the same day of the test.

Patients should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and remove any metal objects, such as jewelry, before the test.

During the test, patients will lie on a table that slides into a large, doughnut-shaped machine that takes X-ray images of the heart and its blood vessels.

A contrast material is injected into a vein in the arm to help highlight the blood vessels and produce clearer images.

Since the test is noninvasive, it usually requires minimal or no recovery time.

Patients should discuss any concerns or questions with their healthcare provider before the test.

How long does a CCTA take to complete?

The duration of a CCTA can vary but it typically takes around 1.5 to 2 hours.

The actual CT scan may only take a few seconds to minutes but there is usually at least one hour of preparation time to stabilize the heart rate.

Patients can return home and resume usual activities the same day as the test and are advised to drink plenty of water to help flush the contrast dye out of their system.

CCTA test results
The test produces detailed 3D images of the arteries in the heart to detect abnormalities in how blood flows through the heart and to diagnose cardiovascular disease. The images are used to evaluate the presence and extent of blockages or narrowing in the coronary arteries, as well as other heart conditions. The test is highly accurate in the detection coronary artery disease. The test results will generally be available within one week and you will receive a letter in the mail indicating that the test results can be viewed in the facility’s “Patient Portal.” The letter may indicate the following:
  1. Normal: You have no coronary artery disease or other problem detected on the test. Recommendation: Continue your regular scheduled visits with your healthcare provider.
  2. Abnormal: You have coronary artery disease. 
Recommendation:  Please consult with your healthcare provider for treatment at your earliest convenience. 
  1. Very abnormal: You have advanced coronary artery disease. 
Recommendation: Please consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible for treatment.
  1. Other: The test detected an abnormality other than coronary artery disease which may require further tests and/or treatment. 
Recommendation: Please consult with your healthcare provider at your earliest convenience.  Note: It is very important to take a copy of the CCTA report with you to your follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider to share the results.

CT Coronary Calcium Score

What is a CT Coronary Calcium Score?

A CT Coronary Calcium Score is a type of heart scan that uses special x-ray equipment to produce pictures of the coronary arteries to determine if they are blocked or narrowed by the buildup of plaque, which is an indicator for atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD).

The test measures the amount of calcified plaque in the heart’s arteries and reports the results as a coronary artery calcium (CAC) score or Agatston score, which ranges from 0 to 400 or greater. A higher score suggests a greater chance of significant narrowing in the coronary arteries and a higher risk of future heart attack.

The results can help you and your doctor decide if you need to make any changes to your medicine or lifestyle.

The test is not recommended if you are pregnant.

The radiation exposure is low, and no contrast dye is used.

A negative cardiac CT scan for calcium scoring shows no calcification within the coronary arteries, which suggests that CAD is absent or so minimal it cannot be seen by this technique.

How is a CT Coronary Calcium Score performed?

A CT Coronary Calcium Score, also known as a coronary calcium scan, is a type of CT (computed tomography) scan that uses X-rays and a computer to make cross-sectional images of the coronary arteries.

The test is non-invasive and takes only a few minutes to complete.

During the test, you will lie on a table that slides into a CT scanner, which takes pictures of your heart.

No contrast dye is used, and the radiation exposure is low.

The test looks for calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries, which is a good indication of plaque buildup, the cause of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

If calcium is present, the computer will create a calcium score that estimates the extent of coronary artery disease.

The results are reported as a coronary artery calcium (CAC) score or Agatston score, which ranges from 0 to 400 or greater. A CAC score of zero means there is no calcium in the walls of your coronary arteries.

Healthcare providers, such as a primary care physician or cardiologist, will order the test if they think you are at risk of coronary artery disease or another heart condition but have no symptoms.

The results of the test will be reviewed and reported by a board-certified physician.

The score can help a doctor determine your risk of coronary artery disease and a heart attack, even if you show no symptoms.

IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU DISCUSS THE RESULTS OF THE TEST WITH YOUR PERSONAL MEDICAL PRACTITIONER.

Is there any preparation required before taking the CT Coronary Calcium Score Test?

There is usually no special preparation required before taking a CT Coronary Calcium Score test. 

On the day of the test:

  • There is no need to withhold taking your medications. 
  • However, you should avoid caffeine and smoking for 4 to 6 hours before the test.
  • You should also wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Before the test, you will be asked to remove all metal objects, including jewelry, piercings, and clothing with metal fasteners.
Coronary Calcium Score Test Results

The purpose of the test is to understand an individual’s risk of heart attack and taking preventive or corrective measures based on the results.

The test is highly accurate for the detection of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries indicating the presence of disease (CAD) and potential risk for a future heart attack.

The result of the test is usually given as a number called an Agatston score, which reflects the total area of calcium deposits and the density of the calcium.

0

Normal. 

No calcium is seen in the heart, suggesting a very low chance of developing a heart attack in the future.

1 – 10

Minimal evidence of heart disease, while a score of 11-100 is for mild evidence of heart disease.

100 – 300

Moderate plaque deposits and is associated with a relatively high risk of a heart attack or other heart disease over time.

301 or greater

More significant evidence of plaque deposits inside the lining of the heart arteries, which equates to a greater likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke down the road.

As people age, most develop some plaque in their arteries.

The lower the calcium score and percentile rank, the less likely an individual is to have a heart attack compared to other people of the same age and gender.

The test is not absolute in predicting your risk for a life-threatening heart attack because there are certain forms of coronary artery disease that escape detection with this test, such as “soft plaque” atherosclerosis.

The test results will generally be available within one week and you will receive a letter in the mail indicating that the test results can be viewed in the facility’s “Patient Portal.”

Note: It is very important to take a copy of the CCTA report with you to your follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider to share your results.

Screening Questions & Application

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