Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring: Toward a New Standard

Invest Radiol. 2022 Jan 1;57(1):13-22. doi: 10.1097/RLI.0000000000000808.


Objectives: Although the Agatston score is a commonly used quantification method, rescan reproducibility is suboptimal, and different CT scanners result in different scores. In 2007, McCollough et al (Radiology 2007;243:527-538) proposed a standard for coronary artery calcium quantification. Advancements in CT technology over the last decade, however, allow for improved acquisition and reconstruction methods. This study aims to investigate the feasibility of a reproducible reduced dose alternative of the standardized approach for coronary artery calcium quantification on state-of-the-art CT systems from 4 major vendors.

Materials and methods: An anthropomorphic phantom containing 9 calcifications and 2 extension rings were used. Images were acquired with 4 state-of-the-art CT systems using routine protocols and a variety of tube voltages (80-120 kV), tube currents (100% to 25% dose levels), slice thicknesses (3/2.5 and 1/1.25 mm), and reconstruction techniques (filtered back projection and iterative reconstruction). Every protocol was scanned 5 times after repositioning the phantom to assess reproducibility. Calcifications were quantified as Agatston scores.

Results: Reducing tube voltage to 100 kV, dose to 75%, and slice thickness to 1 or 1.25 mm combined with higher iterative reconstruction levels resulted in an on average 36% lower intrascanner variability (interquartile range) compared with the standard 120 kV protocol. Interscanner variability per phantom size decreased by 34% on average. With the standard protocol, on average, 6.2 ± 0.4 calcifications were detected, whereas 7.0 ± 0.4 were detected with the proposed protocol. Pairwise comparisons of Agatston scores between scanners within the same phantom size demonstrated 3 significantly different comparisons at the standard protocol (P < 0.05), whereas no significantly different comparisons arose at the proposed protocol (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: On state-of-the-art CT systems of 4 different vendors, a 25% reduced dose, thin-slice calcium scoring protocol led to improved intrascanner and interscanner reproducibility and increased detectability of small and low-density calcifications in this phantom. The protocol should be extensively validated before clinical use, but it could potentially improve clinical interscanner/interinstitutional reproducibility and enable more consistent risk assessment and treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Calcium
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Vessels* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Calcium