The heart disease scanner: what is it and how accurate is it?

BBC Newsbeat spoke to Professor Richard Plummer, of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who is one of the UK’s leading experts in coronary calcium, about the scanner.

Can you tell us about the CHART scanner?

The CHART scanner is an ultra-high-resolution measurement of the calcium content in the coronary artery walls.

The artery walls release cholesterol when you have a heart attack, which stimulates the formation of the plaque that causes the heart attack.

It means they are able to draw a straight line from the coronary artery to the artery that leads to the heart.

The CHART scanner showed a completely different picture from a CT scan

It’s already been tested to detect coronary artery disease, and led to 3,600 fewer admissions to hospital.

Why the heart disease scanner?

The current MRI scanners aren’t able to spot the calcium build-up.

This CHART scanner shows a totally different picture compared to an MRI scan because it’s able to scan the entire coronary artery walls, plus any other coronary arteries they examine.

It’s able to tell a hospital from a home, between white spots on the right and the left side, and between red spots on the left and the right side.

The calcium measurements are far more accurate than CT scans, which can’t show where the extra calcium is located.

Any surprises from it?

To be able to see the calcium build-up right across the artery walls is amazing, and offers invaluable information to determine where further investigations are needed.

A calcium reading, along with others, can help doctors decide how best to treat the condition.

Common signs and symptoms:

– Lungs may not fully empty

– Shortness of breath

– Confusion or disorientation

– Body feels heavy, floppy or in pain

– Fatigue

– Breathlessness, palpitations or heart palpitations

Chest scans are relatively common but an MRI scan can give more detailed images of the coronary arteries and their calcium content.

What other tests can you do?

If there are no marked changes in the arteries, the calcium reading provides a good indication of where to investigate.

Arteries that already have calcium can be monitored and monitored closely with scans, which are beneficial in diagnosing heart conditions such as narrowed or blocked arteries.

Small blood vessels that feed to the heart can also be monitored with ultrasound – but it can be hard to get such readings where there’s no calcium.


Another group of specialists are interested in using the CHART scanner to assess how well a patient’s cancer is responding to treatment.

The results from using this scanner on a bunch of patients with recurrent breast cancer could improve the outcomes of treatment, said Professor Claudio di Burle, of the American Cancer Society.

The scanners have also been used for other non-heart-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and vascular problems.

Leave a Comment