Above: A Coronary Calcium Scan showing calcified plaque in one of the major coronary arteries (arrow). The white part of the image near the arrow is plaque. The white around the outside of the image forming a rough circle is bone.
Above: A normal Coronary Calcium Scan with no white-appearing plaque. The heart is the light gray mass in the middle of the image. The spine is the white object at the bottom left of the image.

The coronary calcium scan and coronary CT angiography are effective non-invasive imaging techniques used to diagnosis coronary artery disease and help guide physicians for an appropriate treatment plan.

Coronary Calcium Scan


A coronary calcium scan can be a good first step towards ensuring a healthy heart.


A coronary calcium scan is a non-invasive exam which looks for specks of calcium (called calcifications) in the walls of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart wall. Calcium is anearly sign of coronary artery disease. The calcium score gives an idea of whether coronary arterydisease is present despite a lack of symptoms or is likely to develop in the next few years.

Most people who suffer heart attacks have only average or slightly elevated cholesterol. In people with cholesterol levels as low as 180, heart attack is still the leading cause of death. Many people with plaque deposits often do not have any symptoms. This is why a coronary calcium scan is so important. This simple test can provide an early warning of coronary artery disease before experiencing any cardiac symptoms.

A coronary calcium scan is simple and easy for the patient, who lies quietly in the scanner machine. There is no injection. The test involves two breath holds and takes only about 5 minutes. To measure how much calcium has accumulated in the coronary arteries, the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center at Cedars-Sinai uses a state-of-the-art 64-slice dual-source CT scanner which is many times faster than a conventional CT scanner.

A physician’s referral is not required for a coronary calcium scan. A final written report will be mailed or faxed to the patient and the designated cardiologist or other physician within 48 hours of the test. The report includes the findings from the medical history, the cholesterol level and the results of the coronary calcium scan.

Why should I be screened; I’m healthy?

In about 50 percent of cases, the first symptom of heart disease is a heart attack or sudden death. Relying solely on risk factors misses many individuals who are at risk. In fact, a study found that 77 percent of individuals who suffered a heart attack had normal LDL cholesterol levels. Thirty-two percent of women with apparently low risk factors have calcium in their coronary arteries, increasing their risk of heart disease. There is therapy available to slow or even halt progression of coronary artery disease, if detected early.

Who should be screened?

For a coronary calcium scan, men 45 years and older, and women 55 years and older with one or more of the following risk factors:

How do I make an appointment?

A physician’s order is not necessary to undergo this test; however, it is encouraged that patients consult with their physician before undergoing this test. To schedule an appointment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, call (310) 423-8000. Other area medical centers may also offer this test.

What can I do with the results?

If your study shows plaque buildup in the arteries supplying your heart, diet changes, exercise and, if necessary, medications may significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack. The earlier such plaque is detected, the more effective intervention in the form of dietary changes, increased exercise and medications will be.