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Arterial Calcium Scans Can Predict Death Risk
Date:6/23/2008

But the test's cost may still be prohibitive, experts say

MONDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- Scanning the heart's arteries for calcium deposits accurately predicts the overall death risk for American adults, a new study suggests.

"So far, this is the best predictor we have of who will have a problem and who will not," said study co-researcher Dr. Matthew Budoff, associate professor of medicine at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

He and his colleagues reported the finding in the July 1 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

A calcium scan looks for calcification, a hardening of the arteries caused by high blood fats and calcium deposits that can eventually block blood vessels, causing heart attacks, strokes and other major problems.

But calcium scans can be controversial, partly because they are promoted vigorously by for-profit centers, where they often cost $300 or more.

The new study might help end that controversy, because it shows that coronary artery calcium levels are directly associated with the risk of death, Budoff said.

"I think it better validates the technique with an endpoint that people can rely on," he said. "There has been a lot of criticism of coronary calcium studies, because they have been short-term, with endpoints such as angiography or bypass surgery. Those are endpoints that are more up to the doctor to decide."

Some previous studies have been more definite. One, reported earlier this year by cardiologists at the University of California, Irvine, who looked at more than 6,700 men and women, found that the risk of a coronary event such as a heart attack was 10 times higher for people with the highest calcium deposit scores than for those with the lowest.

The newly reported study enrolled more than 35,000 people ages 40 to 80, in the cities of Torrance, Calif., and Nashville, Tenn., who were followed for an average of
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