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Acad Radiol. 2012 Jul;19(7):889-93. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2012.03.013. Epub 2012 Apr 26.

Identification of noncalcified plaque in young persons with diabetes: an opportunity for early primary prevention of coronary artery disease identified with low-dose coronary computed tomographic angiography.

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Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center,1124 West Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90502, USA.



Coronary computed tomographic angiography (CTA) is a valuable tool for assessing coronary artery disease (CAD). Although statin use is widely recommended for persons with diabetes older than age 40, little is known about the presence and severity of CAD in younger patients with diabetes mellitus (DM). We evaluated coronary artery calcium (CAC) and coronary CTA in young persons with both DM1 and DM2 in an attempt to detect the earliest objective evidence of arteriosclerosis eligible for primary prevention.


We prospectively enrolled 40 persons with DM (25 type 1 and 15 type 2) between the ages of 19 and 35 presenting with diabetes for 5 years or longer. All patients underwent coronary CTA and CAC scans to evaluate for early atherosclerotic disease. Each plaque in the coronary artery was classified as noncalcified or calcified-mixed. We also evaluated all segments with stenosis, dividing them into mild (<50%), moderate (50-70%), and severe (>70%).


The average age of the DM1 subjects were 26 ± 4 (SD) years and 30 ± 4 years for DM2 patients (P < .01), with duration of diabetes of 8 ± 5 years and average HbA1c% of 8.7 ± 1.6 (norm = 4.6-6.2). Abnormal scans were present in 57.5%, noncalcified in 35% and calcified-mixed plaque in 22.5%. Persons with DM2 had a higher prevalence of positive coronary CTA scans than DM1: 80% versus 44% (P < .03) and more positive CAC scores 53% versus 4%, (P < .01). The total segment score of 2.1 ± 3.4 (P < .01) and total plaque score 1.9 ± 2.8 (P < .01) were highly correlated to each other. Plaque was almost uniformly absent below age 25, and became increasingly common in individuals over the age of 25 years for both groups. The average radiation exposure was 2.5 ± 1.3 mSv.


Our study verifies that early CAD can be diagnosed with coronary CTA and minimal radiation exposure in young adults with DM. A negative CAC score was not sufficient to exclude early CAD as we observed a preponderance of noncalcified plaque in this cohort. Coronary CTA in young DM patients older than age 25 may provide earlier identification of disease than does a CAC because only noncalcified plaque is frequently present. Coronary CTA provides an opportunity to consider initiation of earlier primary CAD prevention rather than waiting for the age of 40 as currently recommended by the American Diabetes Association guidelines.

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