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

Stereostatic Biopsy
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Reasons for Test

EBCT is useful for screening people for coronary heart disease (CHD). It can be used before or after symptoms (such as chest pain) actually appear. This is important because, for many people, the first sign of CHD is a heart attack.

It can be used to:

  • Determine the risk of CHD in people with no symptoms
  • Determine likelihood of CHD in people with abnormal chest pain

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft

Nucleus image
© 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.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any questions about the test, your condition, or your test results.

In case of an emergency, CALL 911.