An Update on the Utility of Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring for Coronary Heart Disease and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Prediction
Estimating cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk is necessary for determining the potential net benefit of primary prevention pharmacotherapy. Risk estimation relying exclusively on traditional CVD risk factors may misclassify risk, resulting in both undertreatment and overtreatment. Coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring personalizes risk prediction through direct visualization of calcified coronary atherosclerotic plaques and provides improved accuracy for coronary heart disease (CHD) or CVD risk estimation. In this review, we discuss the most recent studies on CAC, which unlike historical studies, focus sharply on clinical application. We describe the MESA CHD risk calculator, a recently developed CAC-based 10-year CHD risk estimator, which can help guide preventive therapy allocation by better identifying both high- and low-risk individuals. In closing, we discuss calcium density, regional distribution of CAC, and extra-coronary calcification, which represent the future of CAC and CVD risk assessment research and may lead to further improvements in risk prediction.