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Sanford Radiology

Cardiac calcium score

Heart disease is the leading cause of death of Americans, for both men and women. A quick cardiac calcium score can help determine your future risk of coronary disease, and possibly risk of heart attack—so knowing your cardiac calcium score could save your life.

A cardiac calcium score is a fast, painless and non-invasive CT scan used to obtain information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries and, therefore, a person’s risk of heart attack.

The presence of calcified plaque signals atherosclerosis, a disease of the vessel wall, also called coronary artery disease (CAD) or hardening of the arteries. Over time, as the disease progresses with additional plaque build-up, the arteries can narrow or even close off blood flow to the heart.

At Sanford Health, the Aquilion ONE, the region’s most advanced CT scanner, is used to perform the cardiac calcium scan. It provides incredibly detailed four-dimensional images of the heart and other organs in less time than it takes for your heart to pump one beat.

Once your scan is completed, a cardiac calcium scoring will be assessed. A negative cardiac CT scan for calcified plaque indicates no calcification in the coronary arteries, which means that CAD is absent or minimal. This result indicates a very low risk of heart attack in the next two to five years.

What does my cardiac calcium score mean?

A positive test means that CAD is present. The amount of calcification is then expressed as a score and indicates the likelihood of a heart attack:

Calcium score Presence of CAD
0 No evidence of CAD
1-10 Minimal evidence of CAD
11-100 Mild evidence of CAD
101-400 Moderate evidence of CAD
Over 400 Extensive evidence of CAD

The results of the scan will be read by a radiologist and reported to your doctor.

What if coronary artery disease (CAD) is found?

With today’s advances in medicine, there are non-surgical options that can often be used to treat coronary disease. This includes something as simple as a change in your diet or using various medications to treat the disease.   

Know your risk factors

Some people have a greater likelihood of having CAD based on these risk factors:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Additionally, men are generally at greater risk of CAD, but the risk increases for women after menopause.

Scheduling a test

Most insurance companies do not cover the cost of a calcium score. However, if you participate in a health savings account or flexible spending account, you may be able to obtain reimbursement for the cost of your screening. The cost is $100, which is due at the time of your screening. Even though this is an out-of-pocket expense, it is still considered a very cost-effective, self-pay procedure for identifying a person’s heart attack risk.

For more information about calcium scores or to make an appointment, please call one of the numbers below.

Contact information
Sanford Radiology
Sanford Clinic—basement
222 N. Seventh St.
Bismarck, ND 58501
General information: (701) 323-5210
Scheduling: (701) 323-5210
Toll-free: (800) 932-8758

Sanford Health Dickinson Clinic
2615 Fairway St.
Dickinson, ND 58601
General information (701) 456-6000
Scheduling: (701) 456-6160
Toll-free: (800) 695-7245


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