What Is CT Calcium Scoring?
CT Calcium Scoring is used to detect coronary artery disease (CAD) at an early stage in patients who have risk factors for CAD but no clinical symptoms. CT Calcium Scoring calculates the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Over time, calcium build-up can narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart, which can result in chest pain or a heart attack.
The procedure is usually performed in men age 45 or older and women age 55 or older. Besides age, other risk factors for CAD include:
- Family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High blood cholesterol levels
- History of cigarette smoking
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
CT Calcium Scoring is a convenient and non-invasive way of evaluating the coronary arteries. More than half of all heart attacks occur when there is less than 50 percent narrowing of the coronary arteries. This level of narrowing cannot be reliably detected on standard cardiac tests, but CT Calcium Scoring can suggest the presence of CAD even when there is less than 50 percent narrowing. However, not all calcium deposits in the coronary arteries produce a blockage, and not all blocked arteries contain calcium. In addition, CT Calcium Scoring cannot detect the earliest form of coronary artery disease (soft plaque) since it usually does not contain calcium deposits.
CT Calcium Scoring is not routinely covered by most health insurance plans and may be available only on a self-pay basis. If an abnormality is detected that requires further imaging tests or intervention, these additional procedures are usually covered by most health insurance plans.