Implications of Coronary Artery Calcium Testing Among Statin Candidates According to American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Cholesterol Management Guidelines: MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis)

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Oct 13;66(15):1657-68. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.07.066.


Background: The American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) cholesterol management guidelines have significantly broadened the scope of candidates eligible for statin therapy.

Objectives: This study evaluated the implications of the absence of coronary artery calcium (CAC) in reclassifying patients from a risk stratum in which statins are recommended to one in which they are not.

Methods: MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) is a longitudinal study of 6,814 men and women 45 to 84 years of age without clinical atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk at enrollment. We excluded 1,100 participants (16%) on lipid-lowering medication, 87 (1.3%) without low-density lipoprotein levels, 26 (0.4%) with missing risk factors for calculation of 10-year risk of ASCVD, 633 (9%) >75 years of age, and 209 (3%) with low-density lipoprotein <70 mg/dl from the analysis.

Results: The study population consisted of 4,758 participants (age 59 ± 9 years; 47% males). A total of 247 (5.2%) ASCVD and 155 (3.3%) hard coronary heart disease events occurred over a median (interquartile range) follow-up of 10.3 (9.7 to 10.8) years. The new ACC/AHA guidelines recommended 2,377 (50%) MESA participants for moderate- to high-intensity statins; the majority (77%) was eligible because of a 10-year estimated ASCVD risk ≥7.5%. Of those recommended statins, 41% had CAC = 0 and had 5.2 ASCVD events/1,000 person-years. Among 589 participants (12%) considered for moderate-intensity statin, 338 (57%) had a CAC = 0, with an ASCVD event rate of 1.5 per 1,000 person-years. Of participants eligible (recommended or considered) for statins, 44% (1,316 of 2,966) had CAC = 0 at baseline and an observed 10-year ASCVD event rate of 4.2 per 1,000 person-years.

Conclusions: Significant ASCVD risk heterogeneity exists among those eligible for statins according to the new guidelines. The absence of CAC reclassifies approximately one-half of candidates as not eligible for statin therapy.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; cholesterol; hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase inhibitors; risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • American Heart Association
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy
  • Calcium / analysis*
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Artery Disease / drug therapy*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / ethnology
  • Coronary Vessels / diagnostic imaging*
  • Coronary Vessels / metabolism
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Calcium