Question: What is a calcium CT screening test and when should it be done?
Answer: Because much of coronary artery disease is preventable, we are now trying to look at detecting coronary disease much earlier -- much earlier than, and hopefully in the time period that it can be prevented, so we can prevent heart attack, the time it takes to treat heart attack and recover from a heart attack.
So coronary calcium screenings may be appropriate for some patients. Your doctor will assess your potential risk factors. If you have conditions that coronary calcium screening could be valuable then it may be recommended.
We know, for instance, that multi-slice X-ray machines that are used to do coronary calcium screening are very sensitive at detecting calcium. Calcium builds up in the atherosclerotic plaque, or the hardening of the arteries. The more calcium, the more likely you have atherosclerosis; the more atherosclerosis, the more likely you are to develop coronary artery disease.
The American College of Cardiology has published what we call 'Appropriateness Criteria,' that is, when this test should be done and when other tests might be more appropriate. So, discuss this with your doctor, go over the risk factors and determine whether or not you could profit from this type of screening.