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1.  Pericardial Fat and Myocardial Perfusion in Asymptomatic Adults from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28410.
Pericardial fat has adverse effects on the surrounding vasculature. Previous studies suggest that pericardial fat may contribute to myocardial ischemia in symptomatic individuals. However, it is unknown if pericardial fat has similar effects in asymptomatic individuals.
We determined the association between pericardial fat and myocardial blood flow (MBF) in 214 adults with no prior history of cardiovascular disease from the Minnesota field center of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (43% female, 56% Caucasian, 44% Hispanic). Pericardial fat volume was measured by computed tomography. MBF was measured by MRI at rest and during adenosine-induced hyperemia. Myocardial perfusion reserve (PR) was calculated as the ratio of hyperemic to resting MBF.
Gender-stratified analyses revealed significant differences between men and women including less pericardial fat (71.9±31.3 vs. 105.2±57.5 cm3, p<0.0001) and higher resting MBF (1.12±0.23 vs. 0.93±0.19 ml/min/g, p<0.0001), hyperemic MBF (3.49±0.76 vs. 2.65±0.72 ml/min/g, p<0.0001), and PR (3.19±0.78 vs. 2.93±0.89, p = 0.03) in women. Correlations between pericardial fat and clinical and hemodynamic variables were stronger in women. In women only (p = 0.01 for gender interaction) higher pericardial fat was associated with higher resting MBF (p = 0.008). However, this association was attenuated after accounting for body mass index or rate-pressure product. There were no significant associations between pericardial fat and hyperemic MBF or PR after multivariate adjustment in either gender. In logistic regression analyses there was also no association between impaired coronary vasoreactivity, defined as having a PR <2.5, and pericardial fat in men (OR, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.82–1.70) or women (OR, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.68–1.82).
Our data fail to support an independent association between pericardial fat and myocardial perfusion in adults without symptomatic cardiovascular disease. Nevertheless, these findings highlight potentially important differences between asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals with respect to the underlying subclinical disease burden.
PMCID: PMC3235122  PMID: 22174800
2.  Quantitative Relation between Coronary Calcium Content and Coronary Flow Reserve as Assessed by Integrated PET-CT Imaging 
Coronary artery calcium (CAC) is a marker of atherosclerosis. Whether epicardial calcium reflects more widespread atherosclerosis affecting coronary vascular function is unknown.
We evaluated 136 consecutive patients without known coronary disease (age 62 ±12 years, 68 % females) undergoing vasodilator stress 82Rb PET and CAC scoring based on clinical grounds. Patients with normal myocardial perfusion on standard semi-quantitative analysis were included. The Agatston CAC score, rest and stress myocardial blood flow (MBF), coronary flow reserve (CFR) and coronary vascular resistance (CVR) were quantified and analyzed on a per patient and per vascular territory basis.
Global and regional CAC scores showed modest but significant correlation with hyperemic MBF (r= −0.31 and r= −0.26, p≤0.0002, respectively), CFR (r= −0.28 and r= −0.2, p≤0.001, respectively), and CVR during peak hyperemia (r=0.32 and r= 0.26, p≤0.0002, respectively). There was a modest stepwise decline of mean CFR with increasing CAC score on per patient analysis (1.8 ±0.5 vs 1.7 ±0.5 vs 1.5±0.4, p=0.048 with total CAC= 0, 1-400 and >400 respectively) and per vessel analysis (1.8 ±0.6 vs 1.6 ±0.4 vs 1.5 ±0.5 vs 1.5 ±0.5, p=0.004 with vessel CAC score= 0, 1-100, 101-400 and >400 respectively). In multivariable modeling only body mass index (p=0.005), CAC score (p =0.04) and hypertension (p=0.05) remained predictive.
In patients without overt CAD, there is a modest but statistically significant inverse relationship between CAC content and coronary vasodilator function, which persists after adjusting for the effect of coronary risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3117296  PMID: 19387640
coronary calcifications; coronary flow reserve; coronary atherosclerosis; positron emission tomography
3.  Cardiovascular events with absent or minimal coronary calcification: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
American heart journal  2009;158(4):554-561.
Elevated coronary artery calcium (CAC) is a marker for increase risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). While the majority of CHD events occur among individuals with advanced CAC, CHD can also occur in individuals with little or no calcified plaque. In this study, we sought to evaluate the characteristics associated with incident CHD events in the setting of minimal (score ≤10) or absent CAC (score of zero).
Asymptomatic participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) (N=6,809), were followed for occurrence of all CHD events (including myocardial infarction(MI), angina, resuscitated cardiac arrest, or CHD death) and hard CHD events (MI or CHD death). Time to incident CHD was modeled using age-and gender-adjusted Cox regression.
The final study population consisted of 3,923 MESA asymptomatic participants (mean age: 58±9years,39% males) had with CAC scores of 0-10. Overall no detectable CAC was seen in 3415 individuals, whereas 508 had CAC scores of 1-10. During follow up (median 4.1 years) there were 16 incident hard events, and 28 all CHD events in individuals with absent or minimal CAC. In age, gender, race and CHD risk factors adjusted analysis, minimal CAC (1-10) was associated with an estimated 3-fold greater risk of a hard CHD event (HR: 3.23, 95% CI: 1.17-8.95), or of all CHD event (HR: 3.66, 95% CI 1.71-7.85) compared to those with CAC=0. Former smoking (HR=3.57; 1.08-11.77), current smoking (HR=4.93; 1.20-20.30), and diabetes (HR=3.09; 1.07-8.93) were significant risk factors for events in those with CAC=0.
Asymptomatic persons with absent or minimal CAC are at very low risk of future cardiovascular events. Individuals with minimal CAC (1-10) were significantly increased to three fold increased risk for incident CHD events relative to those with CAC scores of zero.
PMCID: PMC2766514  PMID: 19781414
Computed Tomography; Prognosis; Coronary Artery Calcification; Atherosclerosis; Coronary Calcium Score; Cardiac Events
4.  Coronary calcium predicts events better with absolute calcium scores than age-gender-race percentiles – The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
The presence and extent of coronary artery calcium (CAC) correlates with the overall magnitude of coronary atherosclerotic plaque burden and with the development of subsequent coronary events. In this study we aim to establish whether age-gender specific percentiles of CAC predict cardiovascular outcomes better than the actual (absolute) CAC score.
MESA is a prospective cohort study of asymptomatic 6814 participants, followed for coronary heart disease (CHD) events including myocardial infarction, angina, resuscitated cardiac arrest, or CHD death. Time to incident CHD was modeled using Cox regression, and we compared models using percentiles based on age, gender and/or race/ethnicity to categories commonly used(0, 1-100, 101-400, 400+ Agatston units).
There were 163(2.4%) incident CHD events (median follow-up 3.75 years). Expressing CAC in terms of age and gender specific percentiles had significantly lower area under the ROC curve(AUC) than using absolute scores (women: AUC 0.73 versus 0.76,p=0.044; men: AUC 0.73 versus 0.77,p<0.001). Akaike’s information criterion (AIC) indicated better model fit using the overall score. Both methods robustly predicted events(>90th percentile associated with a hazard ratio(HR) of 16.4(95% c.i. 9.30,28.9), and score >400 associated with HR of 20.6(95% c.i. 11.8, 36.0). Within groups based on age/gender/race/ethnicity specific percentiles there remains a clear trend of increasing risk across levels of the absolute CAC groups. In contrast, once absolute CAC category is fixed, there is no increasing trend across levels of age/gender/race/ethnicity specific categories. Patients with low absolute scores are low risk, regardless of age-gender-ethnicity percentile rank. Persons with an absolute CAC score of >400 are high risk, regardless of percentile rank.
Using absolute CAC in standard groups performed better than age-gender-ethnicity percentiles in terms of model fit and discrimination. We recommend using cut-points based on the absolute CAC amount and the common CAC cutpoints of 100 and 400 appear to perform well.
PMCID: PMC2652569  PMID: 19161884
prognosis; atherosclerosis; cardiac CT; coronary calcium
5.  An alternative method for quantifying coronary artery calcification: the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA) 
BMC Medical Imaging  2012;12:14.
Extent of atherosclerosis measured by amount of coronary artery calcium (CAC) in computed tomography (CT) has been traditionally assessed using thresholded scoring methods, such as the Agatston score (AS). These thresholded scores have value in clinical prediction, but important information might exist below the threshold, which would have important advantages for understanding genetic, environmental, and other risk factors in atherosclerosis. We developed a semi-automated threshold-free scoring method, the spatially weighted calcium score (SWCS) for CAC in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
Chest CT scans were obtained from 6814 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The SWCS and the AS were calculated for each of the scans. Cox proportional hazards models and linear regression models were used to evaluate the associations of the scores with CHD events and CHD risk factors. CHD risk factors were summarized using a linear predictor.
Among all participants and participants with AS > 0, the SWCS and AS both showed similar strongly significant associations with CHD events (hazard ratios, 1.23 and 1.19 per doubling of SWCS and AS; 95% CI, 1.16 to 1.30 and 1.14 to 1.26) and CHD risk factors (slopes, 0.178 and 0.164; 95% CI, 0.162 to 0.195 and 0.149 to 0.179). Even among participants with AS = 0, an increase in the SWCS was still significantly associated with established CHD risk factors (slope, 0.181; 95% CI, 0.138 to 0.224). The SWCS appeared to be predictive of CHD events even in participants with AS = 0, though those events were rare as expected.
The SWCS provides a valid, continuous measure of CAC suitable for quantifying the extent of atherosclerosis without a threshold, which will be useful for examining novel genetic and environmental risk factors for atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3443418  PMID: 22747658
6.  Signs of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in relation to risk factor distribution in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR) 
European Heart Journal  2008;29(22):2782-2791.
Modern imaging technology allows us the visualization of coronary artery calcification (CAC), a marker of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis. The prevalence, quantity, and risk factors for CAC were compared between two studies with similar imaging protocols but different source populations: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR).
Methods and results
The measured CAC in 2220 MESA participants were compared with those in 3126 HNR participants with the inclusion criteria such as age 45–75 years, Caucasian race, and free of baseline cardiovascular disease. Despite similar mean levels of CAC of 244.6 among participants in MESA and of 240.3 in HNR (P = 0.91), the prevalence of CAC > 0 was lower in MESA (52.6%) compared with HNR (67.0%) with a prevalence rate ratio of CAC > 0 of 0.78 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.72–0.85] after adjustment for known risk factors. Consequently, among participants with CAC > 0, the participants in MESA tended to have higher levels of CAC than those in HNR (ratio of CAC levels: 1.39; 95% CI: 1.19–1.63), since many HNR participants have small (near zero) CAC values.
The CAC prevalence was lower in the United States (MESA) cohort than in the German (HNR) cohort, which may be explained by more favourable risk factor levels among the MESA participants. The predictors for increased levels of CAC were, however, similar in both cohorts with the exception that male gender, blood pressure, and body mass index were more strongly associated in the HNR cohort.
PMCID: PMC2582985  PMID: 18845666
Epidemiology; Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery calcium; Risk factors; Screening
7.  Associations of Inflammatory Markers with Coronary Artery Calcification: Results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Atherosclerosis  2009;209(1):226-229.
Inflammatory markers predict coronary heart disease (CHD). However, associations with coronary artery calcium (CAC), a marker of subclinical CHD, are not established.
We examined cross-sectional associations of C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and fibrinogen with CAC presence (Agatston score > 0 by computed tomography) in 6,783 Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) participants.
In all participants, those in the highest, compared to lowest, quartile of CRP had a relative risk (RR, 95% confidence interval) of 1.13 (1.06-1.19; p<0.01) for CAC in age, sex and ethnicity adjusted models. For highest versus lowest quartiles, relative risks were 1.22 (1.15-1.30; p<0.01) for IL-6 and 1.18 (1.11-1.24; p<0.01) for fibrinogen. Adjusting for CHD risk factors (smoking, diabetes, blood pressure, obesity and dyslipidemia) attenuated RRs. RRs for CAC were 1.05 (0.99-1.12; p=0.63) for CRP, 1.12 (1.06-1.20; p<0.01) for IL-6 and 1.09 (1.02-1.16; p=0.01) for fibrinogen in multivariable adjusted models. Results were similar for men and women and across ethnic groups.
Inflammatory markers were weakly associated with CAC presence and burden in MESA. Our data support the hypothesis that inflammatory biomarkers and CAC reflect distinct pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC2830357  PMID: 19766217
Atherosclerosis; Calcium; Inflammation; Population
8.  Coronary Artery Calcium Score and Risk Classification for Coronary Heart Disease Prediction: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Coronary artery calcium score (CACS) has been shown to predict future coronary heart disease (CHD) events. However, the extent to which adding CACS to traditional CHD risk factors improves classification of risk is unclear.
To determine whether adding CACS to a prediction model based on traditional risk factors improves classification of risk.
Design, Setting and Participants
CACS was measured by computed tomography on 6,814 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a population-based cohort without known cardiovascular disease. Recruitment spanned July 2000 to September 2002; follow-up extended through May 2008. Participants with diabetes were excluded for the primary analysis. Five-year risk estimates for incident CHD were categorized as 0-<3%, 3-<10%, and ≥10% using Cox proportional hazards models. Model 1 used age, gender, tobacco use, systolic blood pressure, antihypertensive medication use, total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and race/ethnicity. Model 2 used these risk factors plus CACS. We calculated the net reclassification improvement (NRI) and compared the distribution of risk using Model 2 versus Model 1.
Main Outcome Measures
Incident CHD events
Over 5.8 years median follow-up, 209 CHD events occurred, of which 122 were myocardial infarction, death from CHD, or resuscitated cardiac arrest. Model 2 resulted in significant improvements in risk prediction compared to Model 1 (NRI=0.25, 95% confidence interval 0.16-0.34, P<0.001). With Model 1, 69% of the cohort was classified in the highest or lowest risk categories, compared to 77% with Model 2. An additional 23% of those who experienced events were reclassified to high risk, and an additional 13% without events were reclassified to low risk using Model 2.
In the MESA cohort, addition of CACS to a prediction model based on traditional risk factors significantly improved the classification of risk and placed more individuals in the most extreme risk categories.
PMCID: PMC3033741  PMID: 20424251
9.  Coronary Artery Calcification Compared with Carotid Intima-Media Thickness in Prediction of Cardiovascular Disease Incidence: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Archives of internal medicine  2008;168(12):1333-1339.
Coronary artery calcium (CAC) and carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) are noninvasive measures of atherosclerosis that consensus panels have recommended as possible additions to risk factor assessment for predicting the probability of cardiovascular disease (CVD) occurrence.
To assess whether maximum carotid IMT or CAC (Agatston Score) is the better predictor of incident CVD.
Design, Setting, Patients
Prospective cohort study of 45–84 year-olds initially free of CVD (n = 6,698) in four ethnic groups, with standardized carotid IMT and CAC measures at baseline, in six field centers of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
Main Outcome Measure(s)
Incident CVD events (coronary heart disease, stroke, and fatal CVD) over a maximum of 5.3 years of follow-up.
There were 222 CVD events during follow-up. CAC was associated more strongly than carotid IMT with risk of incident CVD. After adjustment for each other and traditional CVD risk factors, the hazard of CVD increased 2.1-fold (95% CI 1.8–2.5) for each standard deviation greater level of log-transformed CAC, versus 1.3-fold (95% CI 1.1–1.4) for each standard deviation greater maximum IMT. For coronary heart disease, the hazard ratios per standard deviation increment were 2.5-fold (95% CI 2.1–3.1) for CAC and 1.2-fold (95% CI 1.0–1.4) for IMT. An ROC analysis also suggested that CAC predicted incident CVD better than IMT did.
Although whether and how to clinically use bio-imaging tests of subclinical atherosclerosis remains a topic of debate, this study found that CAC predicts subsequent CVD events better than does carotid IMT.
PMCID: PMC2555989  PMID: 18574091
10.  Quantitative relationship between coronary artery calcium score and hyperemic myocardial blood flow as assessed by hybrid 15O-water PET/CT imaging in patients evaluated for coronary artery disease 
Journal of Nuclear Cardiology  2011;19(2):256-264.
The incremental value of CAC over traditional risk factors to predict coronary vasodilator dysfunction and inherent myocardial blood flow (MBF) impairment is only scarcely documented (MBF). The aim of this study was therefore to evaluate the relationship between CAC content, hyperemic MBF, and coronary flow reserve (CFR) in patients undergoing hybrid 15O-water PET/CT imaging.
We evaluated 173 (mean age 56 ± 10, 78 men) patients with a low to intermediate likelihood for coronary artery disease (CAD), without a documented history of CAD, undergoing vasodilator stress 15O-water PET/CT and CAC scoring. Obstructive coronary artery disease was excluded by means of invasive (n = 44) or CT-based coronary angiography (n = 129).
91 of 173 patients (52%) had a CAC score of zero. Of those with CAC, the CAC score was 0.1-99.9, 100-399.9, and ≥400 in 31%, 12%, and 5% of patients, respectively. Global CAC score showed significant inverse correlation with hyperemic MBF (r = −0.32, P < .001). With increasing CAC score, there was a decline in hyperemic MBF on a per-patient basis [3.70, 3.30, 2.68, and 2.53 mL · min−1 · g−1, with total CAC score of 0, 0.1-99.9, 100-399.9, and ≥400, respectively (P < .001)]. CFR showed a stepwise decline with increasing levels of CAC (3.70, 3.32, 2.94, and 2.93, P < .05). Multivariate analysis, including age, BMI, and CAD risk factors, revealed that only age, male gender, BMI, and hypercholesterolemia were associated with reduced stress perfusion. Furthermore, only diabetes and age were independently associated with CFR.
In patients without significant obstructive CAD, a greater CAC burden is associated with a decreased hyperemic MBF and CFR. However, this association disappeared after adjustment for traditional CAD risk factors. These results suggest that CAC does not add incremental value regarding hyperemic MBF and CFR over established CAD risk factors in patients without obstructive CAD.
PMCID: PMC3313028  PMID: 22076826
Coronary artery calcium; hyperemic myocardial blood flow; coronary risk factors
11.  The Relationship Between Insulin Resistance and Incidence and Progression of Coronary Artery Calcification 
Diabetes Care  2011;34(3):749-751.
We sought to determine whether insulin resistance predicts the incidence and progression of coronary artery calcification (CAC).
We studied 5,464 participants not on hypoglycemic therapy from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Each had baseline homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and baseline and follow-up CAC scores. Incident CAC was defined as newly detectable CAC; progression was defined as advancing CAC volume score at follow-up.
Median HOMA-IR was 1.2 (0.8–2.0). Across all ethnicities, there was a graded increase in CAC incidence and progression with increasing HOMA-IR. When compared with those in the 1st quartile, participants in the 2nd–4th quartiles had 1.2, 1.5, and 1.8 times greater risk of developing CAC. Median annualized CAC score progression was 8, 14, and 17 higher, respectively. However, HOMA-IR was not predictive after adjustment for metabolic syndrome components.
HOMA-IR predicts CAC incidence and progression, but not independently of metabolic syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3041221  PMID: 21292863
12.  Coronary Artery Calcification by Computed Tomography in Epidemiologic Research and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention 
Journal of Epidemiology  2012;22(3):188-198.
Both American and European guidelines recommend coronary artery calcification (CAC) as a tool for screening asymptomatic individuals at intermediate risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). These recommendations are based on epidemiologic studies mostly in the United States. We review (1) the use of CAC in primary prevention of CHD in the United States, (2) epidemiologic studies of CAC in asymptomatic adults outside of the United States, and (3) international epidemiologic studies of CAC. This review will not consider clinical studies of CAC among patients or symptomatic individuals. US studies have shown that CAC is a strong independent predictor of CHD in both sexes among middle-aged and old age groups, various ethnic groups, and individuals with and without diabetes and that CAC plays an important role in reclassifying individuals from intermediate to high risk. Studies in Europe support these conclusions. The Electron-Beam Tomography, Risk Factor Assessment Among Japanese and US Men in the Post-World-War-II birth cohort (ERA JUMP) Study is the first international study to compare subclinical atherosclerosis, including CAC among Japanese, Japanese Americans, Koreans, and whites. It showed that as compared with whites, Japanese had lower levels of atherosclerosis, whereas Japanese Americans had similar or higher levels. CAC is being increasingly used as a screening tool for asymptomatic individuals in Europe and the United States. CAC is a powerful research tool, because it enables us to describe differences in atherosclerotic burden across populations. Such research could identify factors responsible for differences among populations, which may improve CHD prevention.
PMCID: PMC3798619  PMID: 22485011
coronary artery calcification; primary prevention; coronary calcium score; EBCT; MDCT
13.  Arterial Age as a Function of Coronary Artery Calcium (From the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis [MESA]) 
It has been proposed that coronary artery calcium (CAC) can be used to estimate an arterial age in adults. Supporting this concept is that chronologic age, as used in cardiovascular risk assessment, is a surrogate for atherosclerotic burden. This measure can provide the patient with a more understandable version of their CAC score (e.g. you are 55 years old, but your arteries are more consistent with an arterial age of 65). We describe a method of estimating arterial age by equating estimated coronary heart disease (CHD) risk for observed age and coronary artery calcium (CAC). Arterial age is then the risk-equivalent of coronary artery calcium. We use data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a cohort study of 6814 participants free of clinical cardiovascular disease, followed for an average of 4 years. Estimated arterial age is obtained as a simple linear function of log-transformed CAC. In a model for incident CHD risk controlling for both age and arterial age, only arterial age was significant, indicating that observed age does not provide additional information after controlling for arterial age. Framingham risk calculated using this arterial age is more predictive of short-term incident coronary events than Framingham risk based on observed age (area under the ROC curve 0.75 for Framingham risk based on observed age, 0.79 using arterial age, p=0.006). In conclusion, arterial age provides a convenient transformation of CAC from Agatston units to a scale more easily appreciated by both patients and treating physicians.
PMCID: PMC2621006  PMID: 19101230
14.  Statistical Modeling of Agatston Score in Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12036.
The MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) is an ongoing study of the prevalence, risk factors, and progression of subclinical cardiovascular disease in a multi-ethnic cohort. It provides a valuable opportunity to examine the development and progression of CAC (coronary artery calcium), which is an important risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease. In MESA, about half of the CAC scores are zero and the rest are continuously distributed. Such data has been referred to as “zero-inflated data” and may be described using two-part models. Existing two-part model studies have limitations in that they usually consider parametric models only, make the assumption of known forms of the covariate effects, and focus only on the estimation property of the models. In this article, we investigate statistical modeling of CAC in MESA. Building on existing studies, we focus on two-part models. We investigate both parametric and semiparametric, and both proportional and nonproportional models. For various models, we study their estimation as well as prediction properties. We show that, to fully describe the relationship between covariates and CAC development, the semiparametric model with nonproportional covariate effects is needed. In contrast, for the purpose of prediction, the parametric model with proportional covariate effects is sufficient. This study provides a statistical basis for describing the behaviors of CAC and insights into its biological mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2918511  PMID: 20711503
15.  Coronary artery calcification by computed tomography in epidemiological research and cardiovascular disease prevention 
Journal of Epidemiology  2012;22(3):188-198.
Both American and European guidelines recommend coronary artery calcification (CAC) as a tool for screening asymptomatic individuals at intermediate risk. These recommendations are based on epidemiological studies mostly in the United States (U.S.). We review (1) the use of CAC in primary prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) in the U.S., (2) epidemiological studies of CAC in asymptomatic adults outside of the U.S., and (3) international epidemiological studies of CAC. This review does not consider clinical studies of CAC among patients or symptomatic individuals. Studies in the U.S. have documented that CAC is a strong independent predictor of CHD for both sexes, middle- to old-age groups, various ethnic groups, and diabetics and non-diabetics and that CAC plays an important role in reclassifying individuals at intermediate into high risk. Studies in Europe support these conclusions. The Electron-Beam Tomography, Risk factor Assessment among Japanese and U.S. men in the post-World-War-II birth cohort (ERA JUMP) Study is the first international research comparing subclinical atherosclerosis including CAC in Japanese, Japanese Americans, Koreas, and Caucasians. The study has demonstrated that Japanese had lower levels of atherosclerosis compared to Caucasians whereas Japanese Americans compared to Caucasians had similar or higher levels. CAC is being established as a screening tool for asymptomatic individuals in Europe and the U.S. CAC is a powerful research tool, enabling us to describe the difference in atherosclerotic burden across populations. Such research could elucidate factors responsible for the population difference, which may lead to prevention of CHD.
PMCID: PMC3362675
The annals of applied statistics  2012;6(3):1236-1255.
We analyze the Agatston score of coronary artery calcium (CAC) from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) using semi-parametric zero-inflated modeling approach, where the observed CAC scores from this cohort consist of high frequency of zeroes and continuously distributed positive values. Both partially constrained and unconstrained models are considered to investigate the underlying biological processes of CAC development from zero to positive, and from small amount to large amount. Different from existing studies, a model selection procedure based on likelihood cross-validation is adopted to identify the optimal model, which is justified by comparative Monte Carlo studies. A shrinkaged version of cubic regression spline is used for model estimation and variable selection simultaneously. When applying the proposed methods to the MESA data analysis, we show that the two biological mechanisms influencing the initiation of CAC and the magnitude of CAC when it is positive are better characterized by an unconstrained zero-inflated normal model. Our results are significantly different from those in published studies, and may provide further insights into the biological mechanisms underlying CAC development in human. This highly flexible statistical framework can be applied to zero-inflated data analyses in other areas.
PMCID: PMC3690929  PMID: 23805172
cardiovascular disease; coronary artery calcium; likelihood cross-validation; model selection; penalized spline; proportional constraint; shrinkage
17.  Distribution of Coronary Artery Calcium Scores by Framingham 10-Year Risk Strata in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA): Potential Implications for Coronary Risk Assessment 
By examining the distribution of CAC across FRS strata in a large, multi-ethnic, community-based sample of men and women, we sought to determine if lower risk persons could potentially benefit from CAC screening.
The 10-year Framingham risk scores (FRS) and coronary artery calcium (CAC) are predictors of coronary heart disease (CHD). CAC ≥300 is associated with the highest risk for CHD even in low risk (FRS <10%) persons; however expert groups have suggested CAC screening only in intermediate risk (FRS 10–20%) groups.
We included 5660 MESA participants. The number needed to screen [number of people that need to be screened to detect one person with CAC above the specified cut-point (NNS)] was used to assess the yield of screening for CAC. CAC prevalence was compared across FRS strata using chi-square tests.
CAC >0, ≥100 and ≥300 were present in 46.4%, 20.6% and 10.1% of participants, respectively. Prevalence and amount of CAC increased with higher FRS. CAC ≥300 was observed in 1.7% and 4.4% of those with FRS 0–2.5% and 2.6–5%, respectively (NNS =59.7 and 22.7). Likewise, CAC ≥300 was observed in 24% and 30% of those with FRS 15.1–20% and >20%, respectively (NNS =4.2 and 3.3). Trends were similar when stratified by age, gender and race/ethnicity.
Our study suggests that in very low risk individuals (FRS ≤5%), the yield of screening and probability of identifying persons with clinically significant levels of CAC is low, but becomes greater in low and intermediate risk persons (FRS 5.1–20%).
PMCID: PMC3268231  PMID: 21527159
Framingham risk score; coronary calcium; coronary heart disease; number needed to screen; risk factors; population; atherosclerosis; low risk
18.  Factors Associated with Presence and Extent of Coronary Calcium in Individuals Predicted to be at Low Risk Based on Framingham Risk Score (From The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) 
The American journal of cardiology  2011;107(6):879-885.
Even among asymptomatic people at low risk (<10%) by Framingham Risk Score (FRS), high coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores signify higher predicted risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) events. We sought to determine non-invasive factors (without radiation exposure) significantly associated with CAC in low-risk, asymptomatic persons. In a cross-sectional analysis, we studied 3046 participants from MESA at low 10-year predicted risk (FRS <10%) for CHD events. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the association of novel markers with presence of any CAC (CAC >0) and advanced CAC (CAC ≥ 300). CAC >0 and CAC ≥ 300 were present in 30% and 3.5% of participants, respectively. Factor VIIIc, fibrinogen and sICAM were each associated with CAC presence (P ≤ 0.02); and C-reactive protein, D-dimer and carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) with advanced CAC (P ≤ 0.03). The base model combining traditional risk factors had excellent discrimination for advanced CAC (C-statistic, 0.808). Addition of the 2 best-fit models combining biomarkers plus/minus CIMT improved the c-statistics to 0.822 and 0.820, respectively. All 3 models calibrated well, but were similar in estimating individual risk probabilities for advanced CAC (prevalence = 9.97%, 10.63% and 10.10% in the highest quartiles of predicted probabilities versus 0.26%, 0.26% and 0.26% in the lowest quartiles, respectively). In conclusion, in low risk individuals, traditional risk factors alone predicted advanced CAC with high discrimination and calibration. Biomarker combinations +/− CIMT were also significantly associated with advanced CAC, but improvement in prediction and estimation of clinical risk were modest compared to traditional risk factors alone.
PMCID: PMC3182475  PMID: 21376929
coronary calcium; biomarkers; novel markers; low-risk; risk factors
19.  Inflammation, Coronary Artery Calcification and Cardiovascular Events in Incident Renal Transplant Recipients 
Atherosclerosis  2010;212(2):589-594.
Coronary artery calcification (CAC) predicts cardiovascular events in the general population. We conducted a prospective study to determine if inflammatory markers were predictive of CAC and if CAC predicted cardiovascular events and mortality in incident renal transplant recipients.
A prospective cohort of 112 asymptomatic incident renal transplant recipients who had no prior history of coronary artery revascularization or myocardial infarction had coronary calcifications measured early post-transplant and at least 18 months later by Agatston score and volume method.
The mean CAC score was 367.7 (682.3). Inflammatory markers such as WBC and CRP were predictive of CAC severity. Recipients with cardiovascular events (n=11) or death (n=12) during the follow-up period had higher mean [675.1 (669.3) vs. 296.8(669.0), p=0.02] and median [434.8 vs. 28.9, p=0.01] CAC score compared to those without them. Recipients with CAC score less than 100 had a better cumulative survival rate compared to the recipients with CAC score greater than 100 [95.1 vs. 82.3%, p=0.03]. We found a significant unadjusted and adjusted association between CAC score and cardiovascular events and mortality. A quarter (25.9%) of recipients had CAC progression. Coronary calcification progression also predicted cardiovascular events and mortality after adjustment for diabetes, age, dialysis vintage and presence of CAC at time of transplant.
CAC is prevalent in renal recipients and is predictive of cardiovascular events and mortality. Changes in coronary calcification are common and predict clinical outcomes. Inflammatory markers are predictive of CAC severity at time of transplant, but are not predictive of future cardiovascular event or mortality.
PMCID: PMC2953547  PMID: 20934074
coronary calcification; EBCT; renal transplant; inflammation; C-reactive protein
20.  Impact of Subclinical Atherosclerosis on Cardiovascular Disease Events in Individuals With Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes 
Diabetes Care  2011;34(10):2285-2290.
While metabolic syndrome (MetS) and diabetes confer greater cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, recent evidence suggests that individuals with these conditions have a wide range of risk. We evaluated whether screening for coronary artery calcium (CAC) and carotid intimal-medial thickness (CIMT) can improve CVD risk stratification over traditional risk factors (RFs) in people with MetS and diabetes.
We assessed CAC and CIMT in 6,603 people aged 45–84 years in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Cox regression examined the association of CAC and CIMT with coronary heart disease (CHD) and CVD over 6.4 years in MetS and diabetes.
Of the subjects, 1,686 (25%) had MetS but no diabetes and 881 (13%) had diabetes. Annual CHD event rates were 1.0% among MetS and 1.5% for diabetes. Ethnicity and RF-adjusted hazard ratios for CHD for CAC 1–99 to ≥400 vs. 0 in subjects with neither MetS nor diabetes ranged from 2.6 to 9.5; in those with MetS, they ranged from 3.9 to 11.9; and in those with diabetes, they ranged from 2.9 to 6.2 (all P < 0.05 to P < 0.001). Findings were similar for CVD. CAC increased the C-statistic for events (P < 0.001) over RFs and CIMT in each group while CIMT added negligibly to prediction over RFs.
Individuals with MetS or diabetes have low risks for CHD when CAC or CIMT is not increased. Prediction of CHD and CVD events is improved by CAC more than by CIMT. Screening for CAC or CIMT can stratify risk in people with MetS and diabetes and support the latest recommendations regarding CAC screening in those with diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3177707  PMID: 21844289
21.  Determination of proportionality in two-part models and analysis of Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Statistics and its interface  2011;4(4):475-487.
In MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis), it is of interest to model the development and progression of CAC (coronary artery calcium). With about half of the CAC scores equal to zero and the rest continuously distributed, semiparametric two-part models are needed. Our main interest lies in determining the (partial) proportionality between the two covariate effects in two-part models. Such an investigation can provide important information on the mechanisms underlying CAC development. We propose a novel approach, which consists of penalized maximum likelihood estimation and a step-wise hypothesis testing procedure to determine proportionality. Simulation shows satisfactory performance of the proposed approach. Analysis of MESA suggests that proportionality holds for all covariates except LDL and HDL.
PMCID: PMC3680156  PMID: 23772262
Two-part models; Proportionality; Semiparametric estimation
22.  The General Cardiovascular Risk Profile Identifies Advanced Coronary Artery Calcium and is Improved by Family History. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
The General Cardiovascular Risk Profile (GCRP) is a multivariable model that predicts global cardiovascular disease risk. Our goal was to assess the ability of the GCRP to identify individuals with advanced coronary artery calcification (CAC), and determine whether identification is improved with family history.
Methods and Results
Using data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, three sex-specific models were developed with ordinal logistic regressions to relate risk factors to CAC scores. Model 1 included covariates in the GCRP. Then family history was added, defined as having at least one first-degree relative with premature coronary heart disease (CHD) (Model 2), or as a weak, moderate or strong family history based on number of relatives with CHD, age at onset, and presence of stroke or diabetes in the family (Model 3). For each model, we estimated mathematical CAC risk functions, derived CAC score sheets, evaluated the ability to discriminate persons having positive CAC scores, and assessed reclassification of individuals with low, intermediate, or high probability of CAC >300. Model 1 worked well to identify women and men with positive CAC scores; c-statistics were 0.752 and 0.718 and X2 values were 821.2 (p<0.0001) and 730.6 (p<0.0001), respectively. Addition of family history improved discrimination and fit of Model 1. However, reclassification of participants with advanced CAC was significantly improved with Model 3 only.
The GCRP identifies advanced CAC, an emerging indication for aggressive risk factor modification. Incorporation of family history, especially comprehensive familial risk stratification, provides incremental prognostic value.
PMCID: PMC2932659  PMID: 20160201
coronary artery calcium; family history; risk factors
23.  Self-reported racial discrimination, response to unfair treatment, and coronary calcification in asymptomatic adults - the North Texas Healthy Heart study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:285.
Accruing evidence supports the hypothesis that psychosocial factors are related to cardiovascular disease. However, a limited number of studies have investigated the pathophysiologic pathways through which these associations occur. The purpose of this study was to assess whether experiences of self-reported racial discrimination and reactions to unfair treatment were associated with coronary artery calcification (CAC), an indicator of subclinical coronary heart disease (CHD).
This cross-sectional study recruited 571 subjects (45 years and older) who were asymptomatic of CHD from Fort Worth, Texas from 2006 to 2008. Subjects completed a questionnaire, a multi-slice computed tomography scan to assess for CAC presence (measured as Agatston score >0), and serum chemistries. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between self-reported discrimination and CAC. Results were stratified by response to unfair treatment as it was found to significantly modify the relationship between discrimination and CAC.
Among those who passively responded to unfair treatment, the odds of having CAC present were approximately 3 times higher for those experiencing discrimination (OR, 2.95; 95% CI, 1.19-7.32) after adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, body mass index, hyperlipidemia, smoking status, hypertension, diabetes, and first degree relative with heart disease.
This is the first multi-racial/ethnic study to find racial discrimination associated with CAC, which differs based on how one responds to unfair treatment.
PMCID: PMC2887822  PMID: 20507602
24.  Associations of SNPs in ADIPOQ and subclinical cardiovascular disease in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2010;19(4):840-847.
Circulating adiponectin has been associated with both clinical and subclinical cardiovascular disease (CVD). Variants of the adiponectin gene (ADIPOQ) are associated with clinical CVD, but little is known about associations with subclinical CVD. We studied the association of 11 ADIPOQ SNPs with common and internal carotid intima media thickness (cIMT), presence of coronary artery calcification (CAC), and CAC scores (in those with CAC) in 2847 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Participants were Caucasian (n=712), African-American (n=712), Chinese (n=718), and Hispanic (n=705). All models were adjusted for age, sex, and field site, and stratified by race/ethnic group. African-Americans with genotypes AG/GG of rs2241767 had 36% greater (95% CI (16%, 59%), p=0.0001) CAC prevalence; they also had a larger common cIMT (p=0.0043). Also in African-Americans, genotypes AG/AA of rs1063537 were associated with a 35% (95% CI (14%, 59%), p=0.0005) greater CAC prevalence. Hispanics with the AA genotype of rs11711353 had a 37% (95% CI (14%, 66%), p=0.0011), greater CAC prevalence compared to those with the GG genotype. Additional adjustment for ancestry in African-American and Hispanic participants did not change the results. No single SNP was associated with subclinical CVD phenotypes in Chinese or Caucasian participants. There appears to be an association between ADIPOQ SNPs and subclinical CVD in African-American and Hispanics. Replication as well as assessment of other ADIPOQ SNPs appears warranted.
PMCID: PMC3510267  PMID: 20930713
25.  A Fully Quantitative Pixel-Wise Measurement of Myocardial Blood Flow Using Contrast-Enhanced First-Pass Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Perfusion Imaging: Microsphere Validation in Dogs and Feasibility Study in Humans 
JACC. Cardiovascular imaging  2012;5(2):154-166.
The aim of this study was to evaluate fully quantitative myocardial blood flow (MBF) at a pixel level based on contrast-enhanced first-pass cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging in dogs and patients.
Microspheres can quantify MBF in subgram regions of interest but CMR perfusion imaging may be able to quantify MBF and differentiate blood flow at much higher resolution.
First-pass CMR perfusion imaging was performed in a dog model with local hyperemia induced by intracoronary adenosine. Fluorescent microspheres were the reference standard for MBF validation. CMR perfusion imaging was also performed on patients with significant coronary artery disease (CAD) by invasive coronary angiography. Myocardial time-signal intensity curves of the images were quantified on a pixel-by-pixel basis using a model-constrained deconvolution analysis.
Qualitatively, color CMR perfusion pixel maps were comparable to microsphere MBF bull’s-eye plots in all animals. Pixel-wise CMR MBF estimates correlated well against subgram (0.49 ± 0.14 g) microsphere measurements (r=0.87 to 0.90) but showed minor underestimation of MBF. To reduce bias due to misregistration and minimize issues related to repeated measures, one hyperemic and one remote sector per animal were compared to the microsphere MBF which improved the correlation (r=0.97 to 0.98) and the bias was close to zero. Sector-wise and pixel-wise CMR MBF estimates also correlated well (r=0.97). In patients, color CMR stress perfusion pixel maps showed regional blood flow decreases and transmural perfusion gradients in territories served by stenotic coronary arteries. MBF estimates in endocardial versus epicardial subsectors, and ischemic versus remote sectors, were all significantly different (p<0.001 and p<0.01).
Myocardial blood flow can be quantified at the pixel level (~32 microliters of myocardium) on CMR perfusion images and results compared well with microsphere measurements. High-resolution pixel-wise CMR perfusion maps can quantify transmural perfusion gradients in patients with CAD.
PMCID: PMC3460374  PMID: 22340821
cardiac magnetic resonance imaging; myocardial perfusion; gadolinium; myocardial ischemia

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