Cardiac CT Calcium Scan

A Cardiac CT Calcium Scan for coronary calcium is a non-invasive way of gaining information about the existence, location and degree of calcified plaque in the 3 major coronary arteries that carry blood away from the heart. These vessels supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle.

Without the need for an IV or for an injection, this CT scan quickly takes pictures of the heart and finds and measures the amount of calcium within the arteries. Calcium in the arteries reflects established atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease (CAD)) within the lining of the arteries, and the amount of calcium indicates the extent of this condition.

People with CAD  have an increased risk for heart attacks. Additionally, over time the progression of plaque build up can narrow the arteries or even block blood flow to the heart. The result may be chest pain, sometimes called “angina,” or a heart attack.

The major risk factors for CAD are:

  • family history of heart attacks
  • high blood cholesterol levels
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • smoking cigarettes
  • overweight or obesity
  • physical inactivity

Determining the amount of calcium will help to determine whether further testing or prevention is necessary.

The findings on a cardiac CT are shown as a calcium score. Another name for this test is coronary artery calcium scoring.

The major limitation of cardiac CT calcium screening is, without a contrast agent administered, the test cannot detect the presence or absence of soft plaque.