Background: Prediction of hard cardiac events (myocardial infarction and coronary death) remains difficult in spite of the identification of several relevant risk factors for the development of coronary artery disease (CAD). New indicators of risk might add to our predictive ability. We used measures of coronary artery calcification (CAC) found by electron beam tomography (EBT) imaging to develop prediction models for hard cardiac events alone and in association with traditional risk factors for CAD.
Methods: Two groups of patients were studied: group A, 676 asymptomatic patients (mean age 52 years, 51% men) prospectively followed up for 32 +/- 7 months after being referred by primary care physicians for a screening EBT, and group B, 10,122 asymptomatic patients screened by EBT at one center and used as controls for calculation of calcium score nomograms.
Results: The occurrence of hard events in group A patients was related to traditional risk factors for CAD, presence of CAC (score >0), Ln (1 + absolute calcium score [CS]), and age- and sex-specific CS percentiles (CS%). Univariate analyses showed that age, smoking, diabetes mellitus, presence of CAC, Ln (1 + absolute CS), and CS% were predictive of hard events (all P <.05). Multiple logistic regression analyses demonstrated that CS% was the only significant predictor of events and provided incremental prognostic value when added to traditional risk factors for CAD (chi-square, P <.001). In a comparison of receiver-operator characteristic curves for prediction of hard events, the area under the curve for CS% plus conventional risk factors and age was significantly larger than that obtained by use of traditional risk factors and age separately as predictors (0.84 vs 0.71, respectively, P <.001). Furthermore, the area under the curve of CS% alone was significantly larger than that of traditional risk factors and age combined (0.82 vs 0.71, P =.028).
Conclusions: Patients are usually selected for EBT screening on the basis of the presence of conventional risk factors for CAD. However, an age- and sex-specific calcium score provides the best predictive model for the occurrence of hard coronary events and adds incremental prognostic information to conventional risk factors for CAD.