The coronary calcium scan is a common way to screen for coronary artery disease. This imaging test can range in cost from $100 to $400, but many insurance companies restrict coverage or do not cover it.

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A coronary calcium scan is a type of imaging test that uses X-rays to detect calcium buildup in your heart’s blood vessels.

High coronary calcium scores on this test are associated with a 4 to 10 times higher risk of developing coronary artery disease, which happens when plaque builds up inside the heart arteries.

With so many adults experiencing coronary artery disease, it may be a good idea to consider a coronary calcium scan. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), numerous studies have found that the results of coronary calcium scans are a reliable measure of the future risk of heart attack or stroke.

Despite playing an important role in the heart screening process, coronary calcium scans are still not covered by many insurance providers. They’re cheaper than many other types of imaging tests but still generally cost upward of a hundred dollars, as we discuss below.

Keep reading to learn more about how much a coronary calcium scan costs and who may benefit from this type of imaging.

A coronary calcium scan is a type of computed tomography (CT) scan that allows doctors to see calcium buildup in the blood vessels of your heart.

A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to produce an image of the inside of your body. It provides a more detailed image than traditional X-rays and can allow doctors to see:

  • organs
  • bones
  • soft tissues
  • blood vessels

During the procedure, doctors will put electrodes on your chest. These electrodes measure the electrical activity of your heart. You’ll then lie on a bed in a donut-shaped scanner that takes the X-rays.

Both the AHA and American College of Cardiology (ACC) cholesterol guidelines suggest that a coronary calcium score can refine risk assessment in certain people who are at intermediate risk for coronary artery disease. This can help health professionals determine whether it’s appropriate for those people to start statin therapy.

Researchers have found that the calcium score is generally proportional to the risk of coronary heart disease. This means that, in general, the higher a score the higher a risk of coronary artery disease might be.

About 20.1 million adults in the United States have coronary artery disease. It often doesn’t cause any symptoms for many years, until it leads to a heart attack.

If the scan finds calcium in your coronary arteries, your doctor may recommend statins to reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

Other names for a coronary calcium scan

A coronary calcium scan is a type of CT scan. You may also hear it referred to as a coronary CT scan or a cardiac CT scan.

It’s also sometimes referred to as a heart scan or a calcium-score screening heart scan.

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According to the AHA, the approximate price for a cardiac CT scan is between $100 and $400.

Some clinics or hospitals may offer it for a less expensive price. For example, Northwestern Medicine lists their price as $60 for results delivered within 48 hours.

In a 2021 study, researchers found that regular coronary calcium screening was less expensive than using the thresholds for guiding when statin medications should be started for people with a family history of coronary artery disease.

Coronary calcium scans are relatively new and still not included in standard guidelines for screening for heart disease. The majority of public and private insurance providers restrict coverage, according to the AHA.

The AHA supports the effort to expand insurance coverage for people who might need a calcium score to guide a treatment plan.

Some states mandate that insurance providers must cover the cost of a coronary calcium scan when it’s recommended. For example, Texas made it mandatory for certain people in 2009.

Your insurance may not cover the cost if they consider the scan an elective procedure.

Despite the ACC and AHA releasing guidelines supporting the use of calcium coronary scans, a 2018 report by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found insufficient evidence to evaluate the benefit of coronary calcium scans for guiding treatment decisions.

Medicare Part B covers nonlaboratory diagnostic tests like a CT scan when your healthcare professional orders it to treat a medical concern. If you’re approved, you’ll pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount. However, Medicare may not cover it if it’s considered a screening exam.

Factors that influence the cost of a heart scan include:

  • the specific type of CT scan you receive
  • your geographic location
  • the specific clinic or hospital you visit
  • whether you also need any other tests

Your healthcare professional can give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay for a coronary calcium scan in your area.

Even if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost of a coronary calcium scan, you may still want to consider paying for a scan yourself, especially if you have health conditions that raise your risk of heart disease and if the scan would change your care plan.

The scan is not recommended for people who:

  • have already had a heart attack
  • have a very low or very high risk of heart attack
  • are already taking a statin

Coronary artery disease often does not cause symptoms until you develop a heart attack or another cardiovascular complication. Doctors often prescribe statins to people who are at intermediate or high risk of coronary artery disease.

A coronary calcium scan might be helpful for people ages 40 to 75 at intermediate risk of developing coronary artery disease who do not currently have symptoms. If a scan reveals that you have high levels of calcium in your blood vessels, your doctor may recommend beginning statin therapy.

People at low risk of coronary artery disease generally do not benefit from heart scans because these tests do not change their treatment plan.

Coronary calcium scans can help your doctor assess your risk of coronary artery disease and your risk of developing complications such as a heart attack. The scan identifies calcium buildup inside the blood vessels of your heart that correlates with plaque buildup.

Coronary artery scans start at about $100, but some clinics may offer them at a cheaper price. Your doctor can help you decide whether you’re at intermediate risk of heart disease and may benefit from a coronary artery scan.