Recent Blog Articles

Heart beat: Calcium scan benefit still uncertain

Updated: July 01, 2008

Heart beat

Calcium scan benefit still uncertain

Using a special CT scan to measure calcium deposits in the arteries that nourish the heart has been promoted as a way to predict the chances of having a heart attack. In theory, this makes sense. Since calcium is part of the buildup of cholesterol-filled plaque in artery walls, measuring it might be one way to foresee the heart's future. But concerns that this approach might not work for people of all ethnicities and doubts about its cost-effectiveness have dogged the test.

The results of a four-year study of 6,700 white, black, Hispanic, and Chinese volunteers put the ethnicity concern to rest. In each group, people with higher calcium scores were more likely to have had a heart attack or to have died from heart disease compared with those with low scores (New England Journal of Medicine, March 27, 2008). The results don't answer the question of how much extra information the $500 test adds to the free and easily calculated Framingham risk score. Health insurers don't routinely cover the cost of coronary calcium scanning.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.