Harvard Health Letter

Are high tech heart tests best?

Some popular heart imaging tests aren't for everyone.

If your doctor wants to get a better idea of the health of your heart, you may be advised to have a new high-tech imaging test that uses computed tomography (CT) scans, either a coronary artery calcium (CAC) screening or a coronary CT angiography.

A study published in a recent issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association found that for certain individuals, a CAC score was considered superior to other measures at predicting heart disease. Plaques of atherosclerosis—the cause of heart attacks—contain calcium. The CAC score therefore estimates the amount of atherosclerosis in the heart's arteries. CT angiography directly identifies these blockages. But while CT angiography may be effective, it's far from perfect, according to leading cardiologists at Harvard Medical School.

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