A new study has found that coronary artery calcium scans can prove to be an effective screening tool for patients with silent heart disease who are at risk for a heart attack or sudden death.
Coronary artery calcium scans that detect plaque in the coronary arteries have been shown to be more effective than standard cholesterol and blood pressure measurements in identifying patients who are most vulnerable to heart disease.
"Over half of patients who suffer heart attacks have no warning that they have heart disease until the heart attack occurs. If we knew the patients were at risk, current treatments could prevent the majority of these unnecessary events," said Dr Daniel S. Berman, the study's principal investigator and chief of Cardiac Imaging at Cedars-Sinai's S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center in Los Angeles.
"We had to address the concerns about unnecessary testing and costs related to this potentially lifesaving procedure," he added.
During the study, researchers performed coronary calcium scans on 1,361 volunteers at intermediate risk for coronary artery disease.
The coronary artery calcium scores of 0 indicate no plaque, 1-9 minimal, 10-99 mild, 100-399 moderate, 400-999 extensive, and 1,000 or more very extensive plaque.
Coronary artery calcium scores varied widely but the vast majority of the patients had low scores. More than half - 56.7 percent of subjects, had scores of less than 10, and only 8.2 percent had scores higher than 400.
There was a strong relationship between the coronary calcium scores and subsequent cardiac events.
The study appears in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.