A coronary calcium scan is a test result that can inform your doctor about your heart disease risk. A coronary calcium scan is performed through a computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of your coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood. The CT scan detects calcium deposits in the arteries, which show up as white specks on the image. Calcium—along with fat, cholesterol, and other substances—is a component of plaque, a material that can build up in the artery walls. This buildup of plaque is called atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries,” and is the cause of coronary artery disease (CAD). The more calcified plaque you have, the higher your coronary calcium score. A coronary calcium scan is generally performed on people without symptoms to assess their future risk of suffering a heart attack from CAD within the next five years. This test isn't used for patients with current symptoms of CAD.
Framingham risk score
A coronary calcium score can be used with the Framingham Risk Score, a common method for assessing cardiovascular disease risk. The Framingham Risk Score looks at risk factors, such as cholesterol levels, smoking, and blood pressure, to estimate a person’s 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease, including a heart attack. It’s based on findings from the Framingham Heart Study, a research study that has been ongoing for more than 60 years.
A Framingham Risk Score can accurately identify a low or high risk of heart disease, and a coronary calcium score doesn’t further aid prediction in those cases. However, patients who are identified as at a moderate risk by the Framingham Risk Score may be able to have their risk more accurately measured by the addition of a coronary calcium score.