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What is a calcium score test?

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Quick Answer

A cardiac calcium scoring test is a computed tomography scan, which detects calcium components in plaque in the coronary arteries, according to WebMD. The CT scan records pictures of thin sections of the heart and associated structures to determine the presence and severity of early-stage heart disease.

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Full Answer

A radiology technician performs the test, while a radiologist, internist, cardiologist or family medicine doctor interprets the results, explains WebMD. Clothing and jewelry that contain metal interfere with the specialized X-ray technology used in CT scans and must be removed prior to a cardiac calcium scoring test. An electrocardiagram monitors the heart during the test, which takes approximately 30 minutes. Medication may be used to lower the patient's heart rate below 90 beats per minute to provide a more accurate test result.

Doctors assess a patient's risk for heart disease based on age, race, sex, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, notes WebMD. A patient with low risk or an established diagnosis of heart disease is not a candidate for cardiac calcium scoring. Test results range from zero to 400, and a score of 100 or greater usually indicates heart disease. False-negative results can occur in the earliest stages of heart disease before plaque deposits have hardened. Doctors use the results to recommend diet and lifestyle changes that can reduce the patient's risk for stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

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