The calcium scoring test, more popularly known as the cardiac calcium scoring or coronary artery calcium scoring is a test performed to detect early signs of heart disease or if it is on the advanced stage. The cardiac calcium scoring test is done by taking multiple images using a computed tomography or CT scan (sometimes CAT scan).

How it is performed

The images for the cardiac calcium scoring test have been much clearer than those obtained from ordinary X-ray machines with the help of recent technologies. Up-to-date scanners use the spiral or helical CT technique to take images from various angles. Images are taken at multiple angles of the chest every 20 seconds. Patients may be asked to hold his/her breath for 20-30 seconds while the machine takes around 200 pictures. More advanced machines are now able to take images in less than 10 seconds, which are useful for patients who can’t hold their breath much longer especially the elderly.

The cardiac calcium scoring test is a non-invasive and painless procedure that takes only about 30 minutes. You may be uncomfortable with lying on one position for half an hour but it is important to be still while the images are taken to obtain accurate images.

Who should get the cardiac calcium scoring test

Ordinarily, there should be no calcium around the walls of the coronary arteries. If you get a high score in the cardiac calcium scoring test, there is a huge possibility that you will develop arteriosclerosis or any form of coronary artery disease.

For instance, a calcium score of “0” means there is no plaque or calcification is seen, a score of 1-10 means there is minimal plaque formation, an 11-100 score suggests mild evidences of plaque are seen, 101-400 means there is moderate evidence of plaque, and those scoring above 400 in the cardiac calcium scoring test have severe plaque accumulation in the coronary arterial walls. High scores in the cardiac calcium scoring test most usually suggests an impending coronary artery disease or a severe one.

However, there are drawbacks to the cardiac calcium scoring test. Calcium deposition in the coronary arteries do not always suggest blockage, and sometimes causes of blockage may not be calcium. A soft plaque, which is the earliest stage of coronary artery disease, is not detected in the test. Younger men and women aged 35 and 40 below, respectively may not benefit from this test as well as those whose heart rate is above 90.

Physicians may perform other tests to determine early signs of the severity of coronary artery disease in patients.