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Radiology. 2012 Sep;264(3):679-90. doi: 10.1148/radiol.12112350. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Incremental prognostic value of different components of coronary atherosclerotic plaque at cardiac CT angiography beyond coronary calcification in patients with acute chest pain.

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  • 1Heart & Vascular Center, Medical University of South Carolina, Ashley River Tower, 25 Courtenay Dr, MSC 226, Charleston, SC 29401, USA.



To systematically evaluate the incremental predictive value of cardiac computed tomographic (CT) angiography beyond the assessment of coronary artery calcium (CAC) in patients who present with acute chest pain but without evidence of acute coronary syndrome (ACS).


The human research committee approved this study and waived the need for individual written informed consent. The study was HIPAA compliant. A total of 458 patients (36% male; mean age, 55 years ± 11) with acute chest pain at low to intermediate risk for coronary artery disease underwent coronary calcification assessment with cardiac CT angiography. All patients who did not experience ACS at index hospitalization were followed for instances of a major adverse cardiac event (MACE), such as a myocardial infarct, revascularization, cardiac death, or angina requiring hospitalization. CAC score and cardiac CT angiography were used to derive the presence and extent of atherosclerotic plaque (calcified, noncalcified, or mixed), and obstructive lesions (>50% luminal narrowing) were related to outcomes by using univariate and adjusted Cox proportional hazards models.


Of the 458 patients, 70 (15%) experienced MACE (median follow-up, 13 months). Patients with no plaque at cardiac CT angiography remained free of events during the follow-up period, while 11 (5%) of 215 patients with no CAC had MACE. The extent of plaque was the strongest predictor of MACE independent of traditional risk factors (hazard ratio [HR], 151.77 for four or more segments containing plaque as compared with those containing no plaque; P < .001). Patients with mixed plaque were more likely to experience MACE (HR, 86.96; P = .002) than those with exclusively noncalcified plaque (HR, 58.06; P = .005) or exclusively calcified plaque (HR, 32.94; P = .02).


The strong prognostic value of cardiac CT angiography is incremental to its known diagnostic value in patients with acute chest pain without ACS and is independent of traditional risk factors and CAC.

© RSNA, 2012

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