The cost of a coronary calcium scan, though still not covered by insurance, has come down significantly — to about $100, in some cases — and could be of great value for millions of aging Americans at risk of life-threatening heart disease. It is one of two currently popular noninvasive X-ray techniques to assess cardiac risk and help determine who could benefit from treatments to ward off a crippling or fatal heart attack. The other test, a CT angiogram, is usually covered by insurance but is most often done only when other tests or symptoms suggest possible blockages in the arteries that feed the heart.
A cardiac calcium scan is a specialized type of low-dose X-ray that highlights calcium deposits in the plaque that can line and clog arteries feeding the heart. The more calcium, the more plaque a person is likely to have and the greater the risk of a blockage that can precipitate a heart attack if a piece of plaque breaks loose. The procedure, known as multi-slice computerized tomography, does not require that a dye be injected into the bloodstream to visualize the coronary arteries, though the findings are less precise than those from a CT angiogram, which
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