Use of Risk Assessment Tools to Guide Decision-Making in the Primary Prevention of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease: A Special Report From the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019 Jun 25;73(24):3153-3167. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.11.005. Epub 2018 Nov 10.


Risk assessment is a critical step in the current approach to primary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Knowledge of the 10-year risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease identifies patients in higher-risk groups who are likely to have greater net benefit and lower number needed to treat for both statins and antihypertensive therapy. Current U.S. prevention guidelines for blood pressure and cholesterol management recommend use of the pooled cohort equations to start a process of shared decision-making between clinicians and patients in primary prevention. The pooled cohort equations have been widely validated and are broadly useful for the general U.S. clinical population. But, they may systematically underestimate risk in patients from certain racial/ethnic groups, those with lower socioeconomic status or with chronic inflammatory diseases, and overestimate risk in patients with higher socioeconomic status or who have been closely engaged with preventive healthcare services. If uncertainty remains for patients at borderline or intermediate risk, or if the patient is undecided after a patient-clinician discussion with consideration of risk enhancing factors (e.g., family history), additional testing with measurement of coronary artery calcium can be useful to reclassify risk estimates and improve selection of patients for use or avoidance of statin therapy. This special report summarizes the rationale and evidence base for quantitative risk assessment, reviews strengths and limitations of existing risk scores, discusses approaches for refining individual risk estimates for patients, and provides practical advice regarding implementation of risk assessment and decision-making strategies in clinical practice.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Decision-Making / methods
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / epidemiology
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / prevention & control
  • Decision Making, Shared
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*
  • Primary Prevention* / methods
  • Primary Prevention* / organization & administration
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology