Coronary Calcium Scoring
A cardiac CT scan is a non-invasive way of obtaining information about the location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart wall. Plaque is a build-up of fat and other substances, including calcium, which can, over time, narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart. The result may be painful angina in the chest or a heart attack.
Because calcium is a marker of coronary artery disease, the amount of calcium detected on a cardiac CT scan is a helpful diagnostic tool. The findings on cardiac CT are expressed as a calcium score. Another name for this test is coronary artery calcium scoring.
The goal of cardiac CT for calcium scoring is to detect coronary artery disease (CAD) at an early stage when there are no symptoms and to determine its severity. It is a screening study that may be recommended by a physician for patients with risk factors for CAD but no clinical symptoms. The procedure is most often suggested for men aged 45 years or older and for women who are aged 55 and above or who are postmenopausal. Some patients choose to have the test on their own even if their doctors have not recommended it, in order to detect early-stage CAD.
The major risk factors for CAD, other than age, are:
- abnormally high blood cholesterol levels
- a family history of heart disease
- high blood pressure
- cigarette smoking
- being overweight or obese
- being physically inactive
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