Coronary Calcium Scan

Calcium deposits in the heart’s coronary arteries indicate the presence of coronary plaque, also known as atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease. Plaque can result in narrowing or blockages that can reduce blood flow to the heart and increase the risk for heart attack or stroke.

Cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan for calcium scoring uses special X-ray equipment to produce pictures of the coronary arteries to determine evidence of plaque buildup, an indicator of atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD). 

The test is painless and takes 10-15 minutes to complete and is offered as an outpatient. Risks are low because the scan is non-invasive, does not use contrast dyes, and involves a very low dose of radiation exposure, similar to a typical mammogram. 

Common names for this test:

  • Cardiac calcium scan 
  • Cardiac CT for calcium scoring
  • Coronary calcium scan
  • Coronary artery calcium scan
  • Coronary artery calcium scoring

Coronary Calcium Score

Test results of a coronary calcium CT scan are given as a score indicating the amount of calcium present as evidence of calcium buildup in the coronary artery. For example, a score of zero means no calcified plaque is seen in the heart; a score higher than 300 is consistent with significant calcified plaque and increased heart attack risk.

Our Heart and Vascular Center imaging specialists are specially trained to interpret cardiac CT scans to help diagnose a range of cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease.

Who Should Get a Calcium CT Scan?

Cardiac scans provide important information for patients to understand their unique risk for heart attack or stroke. Doctors use the information to make the right recommendation for a treatment plan, from lifestyle modifications, the use of statin medications and other therapies such as cardiac catheterization.

This test may not be as beneficial for individuals already identified at very high-risk for coronary artery disease: high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, smoking, high blood cholesterol, overweight or obese. 

Coronary artery calcium scans are not recommended for people who have already been diagnosed with heart disease or who have had a heart attack, stroke, bypass surgery or stents.

Other Considerations

A physician or midlevel provider (e.g., physician assistant or nurse practitioner) must order this diagnostic test.

This test may not be covered by insurance. Out-of-pocket costs typically range from $100 to $200.