Coronary calcium scans use a special X-ray test called
computed tomography (CT) to check for the buildup of
plaque on the walls of the arteries of the heart
(coronary arteries ). This test is used to check for
heart disease in an early stage and to determine how
severe it is. Coronary calcium scans are also called cardiac calcium scoring.
The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart.
Normally, the coronary arteries do not contain calcium. Calcium in the coronary
arteries may be a sign of
coronary artery disease (CAD).
A CT scan
takes pictures of the heart in thin sections. The pictures are recorded in a
computer and can be saved for more study or printed out as photographs.
- Heart Disease Risk: Should I Have a Coronary Calcium Scan?
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.
Heart Disease Risk: Should I Have a Coronary Calcium Scan?
Why It Is Done
may want you to have a coronary calcium scan if it can help you and your doctor make decisions about how to lower your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
This test might be most helpful for people who do not have heart disease
but who are at medium risk for heart disease.
Your doctor can help you know your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Your doctor will look at things that put you at risk, including blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and your age, sex, and race.
A coronary calcium scan is not advised for routine screening for
coronary artery disease.1 This test may not tell your doctor any more about your risk for heart disease than your risk factors do.
This screening test is not for you if:
- You don't have any risk factors for heart disease, so you have a low risk of a heart attack and stroke.
- You are at high risk for heart disease or you were diagnosed with heart disease. (You should already be under a doctor's care.)
This test may not be right for you if you are a man younger than 40 or a woman younger than 50. This is because younger people typically do not have much calcium buildup in their arteries yet.
How To Prepare
You do not need to do anything before
you have this test. But you may be asked to not smoke or not eat or drink
anything that has caffeine for a few hours before your test.
Tell your doctor if you might be pregnant or are pregnant. This test is not done on pregnant women.
Talk to your doctor about any
concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be
done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of
this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).