Density of calcium in the ascending thoracic aorta and risk of incident cardiovascular disease events

Atherosclerosis. 2017 Oct;265:190-196. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2017.09.009. Epub 2017 Sep 7.


Background and aims: The volume and density of coronary artery calcium (CAC) both independently predict cardiovascular disease (CVD) beyond standard risk factors, with CAC density inversely associated with incident CVD after accounting for CAC volume. We tested the hypothesis that ascending thoracic aorta calcium (ATAC) volume and density predict incident CVD events independently of CAC.

Methods: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) is a prospective cohort study of participants without clinical CVD at baseline. ATAC and CAC were measured from baseline cardiac computed tomography (CT). Cox regression models were used to estimate the associations of ATAC volume and density with incident coronary heart disease (CHD) events and CVD events, after adjustment for standard CVD risk factors and CAC volume and density.

Results: Among 6811 participants, 234 (3.4%) had prevalent ATAC and 3395 (49.8%) had prevalent CAC. Over 10.3 years, 355 CHD and 562 CVD events occurred. One-standard deviation higher ATAC density was associated with a lower risk of CHD (HR 0.48 [95% CI 0.29-0.79], p<0.01) and CVD (HR 0.56 [0.37-0.84], p<0.01) after full adjustment. ATAC volume was not associated with outcomes after full adjustment.

Conclusions: ATAC was uncommon in a cohort free of clinical CVD at baseline. However, ATAC density was inversely associated with incident CHD and CVD after adjustment for CVD risk factors and CAC volume and density.

Keywords: Ascending thoracic aorta; Calcified atherosclerosis; Cardiac computed tomography; Cardiovascular disease; Coronary artery calcium; Density; Thoracic aorta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aorta, Thoracic / chemistry*
  • Calcium / analysis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Calcium