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Am Heart J. 2001 Mar;141(3):463-8.

Do conventional risk factors predict subclinical coronary artery disease? Results from the Prospective Army Coronary Calcium Project.

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Departments of Medicine and Radiology, Cardiology Service, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Building 2, Room 4A, Washington, DC 20307-5001, USA.



Recent guidelines recommend against the routine use of coronary artery calcification (CAC) detection because the additive value over clinical prediction tools is uncertain. We compared CAC, with use of electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT), with clinical and serologic coronary risk factors for the identification of patients with increased coronary heart disease risk.


We studied 630 active-duty US Army personnel (39-45 years old) without known coronary artery disease (CAD) who were undergoing a routine physical examination as required by regulations. Each participant underwent clinical and serologic risk factor screening and EBCT. The cohort (mean age 42 +/- 2 years, 82% male) had a low predicted risk of coronary events (mean 5-year Framingham risk index [FRI] 1.6% +/- 1.2%). The prevalence of coronary calcification was 17.6% (male 20.6%, female 4.3%). Significant univariate correlates of CAC were total and low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic blood pressure, and body mass index. However, only LDL cholesterol was independently associated with CAC. There was a significant but weak relationship between CAC and the Framingham risk index (FRI) (receiver-operator characteristic [ROC] curve area 0.62 +/- 0.03, P <.001), which was not different from the relationship between CAC and LDL cholesterol alone (ROC curve area 0.61 +/- 0.03, P <.001). The prevalence of any CAC in men increased slightly across increasing quartiles of FRI: 17.0%, 20.8%, 33.0%, and 29.2% (P =.033). Other risk factors (family history, homocysteine, insulin, lipoprotein[a], and fibrinogen) were not related to CAC.


In this age-homogeneous, low-risk screening cohort, conventional coronary risk factors significantly underestimated the presence of premature, subclinical calcified coronary atherosclerosis. These data support the potential of CAC detection as an anatomic, plaque-burden diagnostic test to identify patients who may require more intensive risk-reduction therapies, independent of predicted clinical risk.

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