Prevalence, impact, and predictive value of detecting subclinical coronary and carotid atherosclerosis in asymptomatic adults: the BioImage study

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Mar 24;65(11):1065-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.01.017.


Background: Although recent studies suggest that measuring coronary artery calcification (CAC) may be superior to indirect atherosclerotic markers in predicting cardiac risk, there are limited data evaluating imaging-based biomarkers that directly quantify atherosclerosis in different vascular beds performed in a single cohort.

Objectives: The BioImage Study (A Clinical Study of Burden of Atherosclerotic Disease in an At-Risk Population) sought to identify imaging biomarkers that predict near-term (3-year) atherothrombotic events.

Methods: The BioImage Study enrolled 5,808 asymptomatic U.S. adults (mean age: 69 years, 56.5% female) in a prospective cohort evaluating the role of vascular imaging on cardiovascular risk prediction. All patients were evaluated by CAC and novel 3-dimensional carotid ultrasound. Plaque areas from both carotid arteries were summed as the carotid plaque burden (cPB). The primary endpoint was the composite of major adverse cardiac events (MACE) (cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, and ischemic stroke). A broader secondary MACE endpoint also included all-cause death, unstable angina, and coronary revascularization.

Results: Over a median follow-up of 2.7 years, MACE occurred in 216 patients (4.2%), of which 82 (1.5%) were primary events. After adjustment for risk factors, and compared with individuals without any cPB, hazard ratios for MACE were 0.78 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.31 to 1.91), 1.45 (95% CI: 0.67 to 3.14), and 2.36 (95% CI: 1.13 to 4.92) with increasing cPB tertile, with similar results for CAC. Net reclassification significantly improved with either cPB (0.23) or CAC (0.25). MACE rates increased simultaneously with higher levels of both cPB and CAC.

Conclusions: Detection of subclinical carotid or coronary atherosclerosis improves risk predictions and reclassification compared with conventional risk factors, with comparable results for either modality. Cost-effective analyses are warranted to define the optimal roles of these complementary techniques. (BioImage Study: A Clinical Study of Burden of Atherosclerotic Disease in an At-Risk Population; NCT00738725).

Keywords: atherosclerosis; carotid ultrasound; coronary artery calcification; risk prediction.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asymptomatic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnosis*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vascular Calcification / diagnosis*
  • Vascular Calcification / epidemiology

Associated data