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Coronary Calcium Scan

Coronary calcium scans use a special X-ray test called computed tomography (CT) to check for the buildup of calcium in plaque on the walls of the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries camera.gif). 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?

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Heart Disease Risk: Should I Have a Coronary Calcium Scan?
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Interactive Tool: Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack?

Why It Is Done

Your doctor may want you to have a coronary calcium scan if you have several risk factors for heart disease.

This test might be most helpful for people who have no symptoms but who are at medium risk for heart disease. Medium risk means that you have a 10% to 20% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, based on your risk factors. This means that 10 to 20 out of 100 people with this level of risk will have a heart attack in the next 10 years. The test might be helpful for some people who have a low to medium risk, which means you have a 6% to 10% risk.1 Talk with your doctor about your risk for heart disease.

To find out your risk, see the Interactive Tool: Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack? calculator.gif

A coronary calcium scan is not advised for routine screening for coronary artery disease.2 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. Low risk means you have less than a 6% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.
  • 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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 13, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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