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JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. 2008 Jan;1(1):61-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmg.2007.09.001.

Prognostic value of number and site of calcified coronary lesions compared with the total score.

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  • 1Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30306, USA.



This study sought to evaluate the long-term prognostic value of the number and sites of calcified coronary lesions and to compare the accuracy of number of calcified lesions with the extent of total calcium score.


There is a strong relationship between mortality and total coronary artery calcium (CAC) score. It is not known whether the number of calcified lesions or their location influences outcome.


A total of 14,759 asymptomatic patients were referred for evaluation of CAC scanning using electron beam tomography. Univariable and multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were developed to estimate time to all-cause mortality at, on average, 6.8 years (n = 281).


Risk-adjusted annual mortality was 0.19% (95% confidence interval 0.18% to 0.21%) for patients without any calcified lesions. For patients with >20 lesions, annual risk-adjusted mortality exceeded 2% per year. Mortality rates were significantly higher for left main lesions as compared to other coronary arteries with annual mortality rates of 1.3%, 2.1%, 9.2%, and 13.6% for 1 to 2, 3 to 5, and > or =6 lesions, respectively (p < 0.0001). For left main CAC scores of 0 to 10, 11 to 100, 101 to 399, and 400 to 999, annual risk-adjusted mortality was 0.33%, 0.81%, 1.73%, and 7.71%, respectively (p < 0.0001). All 4 patients with a CAC score of > or =1,000 in the left main died during follow-up. However, patients with more frequent calcified lesions also had higher CAC scores. Specifically, > or =81% of patients with >10 calcified lesions also had a CAC score > or =100. With exception, for patients with CAC scores > or =1,000, annual mortality was dramatically higher at 3.0% to 4.5% for those with 1 to 5 calcified lesions as compared with 1.1% to 2.0% for those with 6 or more lesions (p < 0.0001).


We report that mortality rates increased proportionally with the number of calcified lesions. Although predictive information is contained in the number of calcified lesions, its added statistical value is minimal. With exception, patients with frequent lesions in the left main or those with a few large calcified lesions have a particularly high mortality risk.

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