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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?

Why It Is Done

Your doctor 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?).

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
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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