The cost of such scans could be reduced, according to a statement from study lead author Dr. Robert Detrano, professor of radiological sciences at the University of California, Irvine, who is traveling in China. Scans have been done for just $30 in China, Detrano noted.
"It is mostly an issue of cost," said Dr. William S. Weintraub, chief of cardiology at the Christiana Health Care System, the largest health-care system in Delaware, who wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal. "It does add to our discrimination, but it costs a couple of hundred dollars and we're not sure how you use it."
Reducing the cost would make the test more usable, and "more epidemiological studies showing its value in risk prediction would be of great value," Weintraub said.
"But I'd be uncomfortable now with the idea of recommending this for everybody, or even defining a middle ground where we are unsure how we treat people so they get this first," he said.
A calcium scan also carries some risk, since it exposes a person to radiation, Bild noted. "It would be worth it if the benefit outweighed that risk," she said. "We don't clearly have both sides of that equation established."
For more on coronary calcium scans, visit the U.S. Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Diane Bild, M.D., deputy director, U.S. Heart, Lung and Blood Institute division of prevention and population sciences, Bethesda, Md.; William S. Weintraub, M.D., director of cardiology, Christiana Health Care System, Newark, Dela.; March 27, 2008, New England Journal of Medicine
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