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1.  Thoracic Aortic Calcification and Coronary Heart Disease Events: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Atherosclerosis  2010;215(1):196-202.
The presence and extent of coronary artery calcium (CAC) is an independent predictor of coronary heart disease (CHD) morbidity and mortality. Few studies have evaluated interactions or independent incremental risk for coronary and thoracic aortic calcification (TAC). The independent predictive value of TAC for CHD events is not well-established.
This study used risk factor and computed tomography scan data from 6,807 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Using the same images for each participant, TAC and CAC were each computed using the Agatston method. The study subjects were free of incident CHD at entry into the study.
The mean age of the study population (n=6807) was 62±10 years (47% males). At baseline, the prevalence of TAC and CAC was 28 % (1,904/6,809) and 50% (3393/6809), respectively. Over 4.5±0.9 years, a total of 232 participants (3.41%) had CHD events, of which 132 (1.94%) had a hard event (myocardial infarction, resuscitated cardiac arrest, or CHD death). There was a significant interaction between gender and TAC for CHD events (p<0.05). Specifically, in women, the risk of all CHD event was nearly 3-fold greater among those with any TAC (hazard ratio: 3.04, 95% CI; 1.60–5.76). After further adjustment for increasing CAC score, this risk was attenuated but remained robust (HR: 2.15, 95% CI: 1.10–4.17). Conversely, there was no significant association between TAC and incident CHD in men. In women, the likelihood ratio chi square statistics indicate that the addition of TAC contributed significantly to predicting incident CHD event above that provided by traditional risk factors alone (chi square= 12.44, p=0.0004) as well as risk factors + CAC scores (chi square= 5.33, p=0.02) . On the other hand, addition of TAC only contributed in the prediction of hard CHD events to traditional risk factors (chi-square=4.33, p=0.04) in women, without contributing to the model containing both risk factors and CAC scores (chi square=1.55, p=0.21).
Our study indicates that TAC is a significant predictor of future coronary events only in women, independent of CAC. On studies obtained for either cardiac or lung applications, determination of TAC may provide modest supplementary prognostic information in women with no extra cost or radiation.
PMCID: PMC4110678  PMID: 21227418
atherosclerosis; cardiac CT; coronary calcium; multi-detector CT; prognosis; thoracic atherosclerosis
2.  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
3.  Calcium Density of Coronary Artery Plaque and Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Events 
Coronary artery calcium (CAC), measured by computed tomography (CT), has strong predictive value for incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) events. The standard CAC score is the Agatston, which is weighted upward for greater calcium density. However, some data suggest increased plaque calcium density may be protective for CVD.
To determine the independent associations of CAC volume and CAC density with incident CVD events.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Multicenter, prospective observational MESA study (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis), conducted at 6 US field centers of 3398 men and women from 4 race/ethnicity groups; non-Hispanic white, African American, Hispanic, and Chinese. Participants were aged 45-84 years, free of known CVD at baseline, had CAC greater than 0 on their baseline CT, and were followed up through October 2010.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Incident coronary heart disease (CHD) and all CVD events
During a median of 7.6 years of follow-up, there were 175 CHD events and an additional 90 other CVD events for a total of 265 CVD events. With both lnCAC volume and CAC density scores in the same multivariable model, the lnCAC volume score showed an independent association with incident CHD, with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.81 (95% CI, 1.47-2.23) per standard deviation (SD = 1.6) increase, absolute risk increase 6.1 per 1000 person-years, and for CVD an HR of 1.68 (95% CI, 1.42-1.98) per SD increase, absolute risk increase 7.9 per 1000 person-years. Conversely, the CAC density score showed an independent inverse association, with an HR of 0.73 (95% CI, 0.58-0.91) per SD (SD = 0.7) increase for CHD, absolute risk decrease 5.5 per 1000 person-years, and an HR of 0.71 (95% CI, 0.60-0.85) per SD increase for CVD, absolute risk decrease 8.2 per 1000 person years. Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve analyses showed significantly improved risk prediction with the addition of the density score to a model containing the volume score for both CHD and CVD. In the intermediate CVD risk group, the area under the curve for CVD increased from 0.53 (95% CI, 0.48-0.59) to 0.59 (95% CI, 0.54-0.64), P = .02.
Conclusions and Relevance
CAC volume was positively and independently associated with CHD and CVD risk. At any level of CAC volume, CAC density was inversely and significantly associated with CHD and CVD risk. The role of CAC density should be considered when evaluating current CAC scoring systems.
PMCID: PMC4091626  PMID: 24247483
4.  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
5.  Comparison of Novel Risk Markers for Improvement in Cardiovascular Risk Assessment in Intermediate Risk Individuals. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Risk markers including coronary artery calcium (CAC), carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT), ankle-brachial Index (ABI), brachial flow-mediated dilation (FMD), high sensitivity C -reactive protein (hs-CRP) and family history (FH) of coronary heart disease (CHD) have been reported to improve on the Framingham risk score (FRS) for prediction of CHD. However, there are no direct comparisons of these markers for risk prediction in a single cohort.
We compared improvement in prediction of incident CHD/cardiovascular disease (CVD) of these 6 risk markers within intermediate risk participants (5 % < FRS < 20%) in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
Design, Setting and Participants
Of 6814 MESA participants from 6 US field centers, 1330 were intermediate risk, without diabetes mellitus, and had complete data on all 6 markers. Recruitment spanned July 2000 to September 2002; follow-up extended through May 2011. Probability- weighted Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR). Area under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUC) and net reclassification improvement (NRI) were used to compare incremental contributions of each marker when added to the FRS + race/ethnicity.
Main Outcome Measures
Incident CHD defined as MI, angina followed by revascularization, resuscitated cardiac arrest or CHD death. Incident CVD additionally included stroke or CVD death.
After median follow-up of 7.6 years (IQR 7.3 – 7.8 years), 94 CHD and 123 CVD events occurred. CAC, ABI, hs-CRP and FH were independently associated with incident CHD in multivariable analyses [HR (95%CI: 2.60(1.94-3.50), 0.79(0.66-0.95), 1.28(1.00-1.64) and 2.18(1.38-3.42) respectively]. CIMT and FMD were not associated with incident CHD in multivariable analyses [HR (95%CI) 1.17(0.95- 1.45) and 0.95(0.78 −1.14) respectively]. Although the addition of the markers individually to the FRS +race/ethnicity improved the AUC, CAC afforded the highest increment (0.623 vs. 0.784) while FMD afforded the least [0.623 vs. 0.639]. For incident CHD, the NRI with CAC was 0.659, FMD 0.024, ABI 0.036, CIMT 0.102, FH 0.160 and hs-CRP 0.079. Similar results were obtained for incident CVD.
CAC, ABI, hs-CRP and FH are independent predictors of incident CHD/CVD in intermediate risk individuals. CAC provides superior discrimination and risk reclassification compared with other risk markers.
PMCID: PMC4141475  PMID: 22910756
6.  The Association of Framingham and Reynolds Risk Scores with Incidence and Progression of Coronary Artery Calcification in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
To compare the association of the Framingham Risk Score (FRS) and Reynolds Risk Score (RRS) with subclinical atherosclerosis, assessed by incidence and progression of coronary artery calcium (CAC).
The comparative effectiveness of competing risk algorithms for indentifying subclinical atherosclerosis is unknown.
The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) is a prospective cohort study of 6,814 participants free of baseline CVD. All participants underwent risk factor assessment, as well as baseline and follow-up CAC testing. We assessed the performance of the FRS and RRS to predict CAC incidence and progression using relative risk and robust linear regression.
The study population included 5,140 individuals (61±10 years, 47% males, mean follow-up: 3.1±1.3 years). Among 53% of subjects (n=2,729) with no baseline CAC, 18% (n=510) developed incident CAC. Both the FRS and RRS were significantly predictive of incident CAC [RR 1.40 (95% CI 1.29 – 1.52), and RR 1.41 (95% CI 1.30 – 1.54) per 5% increase in risk, respectively] and CAC progression [mean CAC score change 6.92 (95% CI 5.31 – 8.54) and 6.82 (95% CI 5.51 – 8.14) per 5% increase]. Discordance in risk category classification (< or > 10% 10-year CHD risk) occurred in 13.7%, with only the RRS consistently adding predictive value for incidence and progression of CAC. These subclinical atherosclerosis findings are supported by a CHD events analysis over 5.6±0.7 year follow-up.
Both the RRS and FRS predict onset and progression of subclinical atherosclerosis. However, the RRS may provide additional predictive information when discordance between the scoring systems exists.
PMCID: PMC4079464  PMID: 22051329
coronary artery calcium progression; subclinical atherosclerosis; risk prediction; Reynolds Risk Score; Framingham Risk Score
7.  A comparison of outcomes with coronary artery calcium scanning in Unselected Populations - The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR) 
The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR)) differed in regards to informing physicians and patients of the results of their subclinical atherosclerosis.
This study investigates whether the association of coronary artery calcium (CAC) with incident non-fatal and fatal cardiovascular (CVD) events is different among these two large, population-based observational studies.
All Caucasian subjects aged 45–75 years, free of baseline cardiovascular disease were included (n=2232 in MESA, n=3119 HNR participants). We studied the association between CAC and event rates at 5 years, including hard cardiac events (MI, cardiac death, resuscitated cardiac arrest), and separately added revascularizations, and strokes (fatal and non-fatal) to determine adjusted hazard ratios (HR).
Both cohorts demonstrated very low CHD (including revascularization) rates with zero calcium (1.13 and 1.16% over 5 years in MESA and HNR respectively) and increasing significantly in both groups with CAC 100–399 (6.71 and 4.52% in MESA and HNR) and CAC >400 (12.5 and 13.54% in MESA and HNR respectively) and demonstrating strong independent predictive values for scores of 100–399 and >400, despite multivariable adjustment for risk factors. Risk factor adjusted five year revascularization rates were nearly identical for HNR and MESA, and generally low for both studies (1.4% [45/3119] for HNR and 1.9% [43/2232] for MESA) over 5 years.
Across two culturally diverse populations, CAC >400 is a strong predictor of events. High CAC did not determininistically result in revascularization and knowledge of CAC did not increase revascularizations.
PMCID: PMC3732186  PMID: 23849491
coronary artery calcification; subclinical atherosclerosis; Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA); Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR)
8.  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
9.  Family History of Coronary Heart Disease and the Incidence and Progression of Coronary Artery Calcification: Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Atherosclerosis  2013;232(2):369-376.
We evaluated family history as a predictor of incident and progressive coronary artery calcium (CAC) using data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
MESA is a multi-center prospective study of 6,814 asymptomatic individuals. The relationship between family history of coronary heart disease (CHD) and CAC incidence or progression has not been described previously.
A total of 5,099 participants had detailed information about family history of CHD (late versus premature and parental versus sibling history). The mean time between CAC scans was 3.1 ± 1.3 years. The association of late versus premature family history was assessed against CAC change using multivariate regression model adjusted for demographics and cardiac risk factors.
A family history of premature CHD was associated with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.55 (p < 0.01) for incident development of CAC after adjusting for risk factors and demographics. A premature family history was associated with 14.4 units (p < 0.01) greater volume scores compared to those with no family history in similarly adjusted models by median regression analysis. A combined parental and sibling family history was associated with the greatest incidence and progression in demographic-adjusted models. Caucasians demonstrated the most consistent predictive relationship between family history of premature CHD and incidence (p < 0.01) and progression (p < 0.05) of CAC, though no significant interaction with ethnicity was noted.
Family history of premature CHD is associated with enhanced development and progression of subclinical disease, independent of other risk factors, in a multiethnic, population-based study.
PMCID: PMC4491495  PMID: 24468150
Subclinical atherosclerosis; coronary calcium; family history
10.  Progression of Coronary Calcium and Incident Coronary Heart Disease Events: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Coronary artery calcium (CAC) predicts coronary heart disease (CHD) events and serial measurement of CAC has been proposed to evaluate atherosclerosis progression. We examined whether progression of CAC is a predictor of future CHD events.
Methods and Results
We studied 6,778 persons (52.8% female) aged 45–84 years from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. 5,682 persons had baseline and follow-up CAC scans approximately 2.5 ± 0.8 years apart; multiple imputation was used to account for the remainder (n=1,096) missing follow-up scans. Median follow-up duration from the baseline was 7.6 (max=9.0) years. CAC change was assessed by absolute change between baseline and follow-up CAC. Cox proportional hazards regression providing hazard ratios (HR) examined the relation of change in CAC with CHD events, adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity, baseline calcium score, and other risk factors. 343 total and 206 hard CHD events occurred. The annual change in CAC averaged 24.9 ± 65.3 units. Among persons without CAC at baseline (n=3,396), a 5 unit annual change in CAC was associated with an adjusted HR of 1.4 (1.0–1.9) for total and 1.5 (1.1–2.1) for hard CHD. Among those with CAC>0 at baseline HR’s (per 100 unit annual change) were 1.2 (1.1–1.4) and 1.3 (1.1–1.5), respectively. Among participants with baseline CAC, those with annual progression of ≥300 units had adjusted HR’s of 3.8 (1.5–9.6) for total and 6.3 (1.9–21.5) for hard CHD compared to those without progression.
Progression of CAC is associated with an increased risk for future hard and total CHD events.
PMCID: PMC4148074  PMID: 23500326
coronary calcification; atherosclerosis; imaging; coronary heart disease
11.  Interpretation of the Coronary Artery Calcium Score in Combination with Conventional Cardiovascular Risk Factors: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Circulation  2013;128(10):10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.002598.
The coronary artery calcium (CAC) score predicts coronary heart disease (CHD) events, but methods for interpreting the score in combination with conventional CHD risk factors have not been established.
Methods and Results
We analyzed CAC scores and CHD risk factor measurements from 6757 Black, Chinese, Hispanic and white men and women aged 45–84 years in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). CAC was associated with age, sex, race-ethnicity, and all conventional CHD risk factors. Multivariable models using these factors predicted the presence of CAC (C-statistic = 0.789) and degree of elevation (16% of variation explained), and can be used to update a “pre-test” CHD risk estimate, such as the 10-year Framingham Risk Score, that is based on an individual’s conventional risk factors. In scenarios where a high CAC score is expected, a moderately elevated CAC score of 50 is reassuring (e.g., reducing risk from 10% to 6% in a healthy older white man); but when a low/zero CAC score is expected, even with identical pre-test CHD risk, the same CAC score of 50 may be alarmingly high (e.g., increasing risk from 10% to 20% in a middle-aged black woman with multiple risk factors). Both the magnitude and direction of the shift in risk varied markedly with pre-test CHD risk and with the pattern of risk factors.
Knowing what CAC score to expect for an individual patient, based on their conventional risk factors, may help clinicians decide when to order a CAC test and how to interpret the results.
PMCID: PMC3840900  PMID: 23884352
coronary disease; calcium; imaging; epidemiology
12.  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
13.  Using the Coronary Artery Calcium Score to Guide Statin Therapy 
The coronary artery calcium score (CAC) predicts future coronary heart disease (CHD) events and could be used to guide primary prevention interventions, but CAC measurement has costs and exposes patients to low-dose radiation.
Methods and Results
We estimated the cost-effectiveness of measuring CAC and prescribing statin therapy based on the resulting score under a range of assumptions using an established model enhanced with CAC distribution and risk estimates from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Ten years of statin treatment for 10,000 55-year-old women with high cholesterol (10-year CHD risk=7.5%) was projected to prevent 32 myocardial infarctions, cause 70 cases of statin-induced myopathy, and add 1,108 years to total life-expectancy. Measuring CAC and targeting statin treatment to the 2,500 women with CAC>0 would provide 45% of the benefit (+501 life-years), but CAC measurement would cost $2.25 million and cause 9 radiation-induced cancers. Treat All was preferable to CAC screening in this scenario and across a broad range of other scenarios (CHD risk=2.5-15%) when statin assumptions were favorable ($0.13/pill and no quality of life penalty). When statin assumptions were less favorable ($1.00/pill and disutility=0.00384), CAC screening with statin treatment for persons with CAC>0 was cost-effective (<$50,000/quality-adjusted life-year) in this scenario, in 55-year old men with CHD risk=7.5%, and in other intermediate risk scenarios (CHD risk=5-10%). Our results were critically sensitive to statin cost and disutility, and relatively robust to other assumptions. Alternate CAC treatment thresholds (>100 or >300) were generally not cost-effective.
CAC testing in intermediate risk patients can be cost-effective, but only if statins are costly or significantly impact quality of life.
PMCID: PMC4156513  PMID: 24619318
coronary; atherosclerosis; economics; calcium; statins
14.  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
15.  The Use of Coronary Artery Calcium Testing to Guide Aspirin Utilization for Primary Prevention: Estimates from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Aspirin for the primary prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) is only recommended for individuals at high risk for CHD although the majority of CHD events occur in individuals who are low to intermediate risk.
Methods and Results
To estimate the potential of coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring to guide aspirin use for primary prevention of CHD, we studied 4229 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) who were not on aspirin at baseline and were free of diabetes. Using data from median 7.6-year follow-up, five-year number-needed-to-treat (NNT5) estimations were calculated by applying an 18% relative CHD reduction to the observed event rates. This was contrasted to 5-year number-needed-to-harm (NNH5) estimations based on the risk of major bleeding reported in an aspirin meta-analysis. Results were stratified by a 10% 10-year CHD Framingham Risk Score (FRS). Individuals with CAC ≥ 100 had an estimated net benefit with aspirin regardless of their traditional risk status (estimated NNT5 of 173 for individuals <10% FRS and 92 for individuals ≥ 10% FRS, estimated NNH5 of 442 for a major bleed). Conversely, individuals with zero CAC had unfavorable estimations (estimated NNT5 of 2,036 for individuals <10% FRS and 808 for individuals ≥ 10% FRS, estimated NNH5 of 442 for a major bleed). Gender specific and age-stratified analyses showed similar results.
For the primary prevention of CHD, MESA participants with CAC ≥ 100 had favorable risk/benefit estimations for aspirin use while participants with zero CAC were estimated to receive net harm from aspirin.
PMCID: PMC4412344  PMID: 24803472
Aspirin; imaging; prevention; coronary disease
16.  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
17.  Cost-Effectiveness of Coronary Artery Calcium Testing for Coronary Heart and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Prediction to Guide Statin Allocation: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0116377.
The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) showed that the addition of coronary artery calcium (CAC) to traditional risk factors improves risk classification, particularly in intermediate risk asymptomatic patients with LDL cholesterol levels <160 mg/dL. However, the cost-effectiveness of incorporating CAC into treatment decision rules has yet to be clearly delineated.
To model the cost-effectiveness of CAC for cardiovascular risk stratification in asymptomatic, intermediate risk patients not taking a statin. Treatment based on CAC was compared to (1) treatment of all intermediate-risk patients, and (2) treatment on the basis of United States guidelines.
We developed a Markov model of first coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) events. We modeled statin treatment in intermediate risk patients with CAC≥1 and CAC≥100, with different intensities of statins based on the CAC score. We compared these CAC-based treatment strategies to a “treat all” strategy and to treatment according to the Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III) guidelines. Clinical and economic outcomes were modeled over both five- and ten-year time horizons. Outcomes consisted of CHD and CVD events and Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs). Sensitivity analyses considered the effect of higher event rates, different CAC and statin costs, indirect costs, and re-scanning patients with incidentalomas.
We project that it is both cost-saving and more effective to scan intermediate-risk patients for CAC and to treat those with CAC≥1, compared to treatment based on established risk-assessment guidelines. Treating patients with CAC≥100 is also preferred to existing guidelines when we account for statin side effects and the disutility of statin use.
Compared to the alternatives we assessed, CAC testing is both effective and cost saving as a risk-stratification tool, particularly if there are adverse effects of long-term statin use. CAC may enable providers to better tailor preventive therapy to patients' risks of CVD.
PMCID: PMC4364761  PMID: 25786208
18.  Competing Cardiovascular Outcomes Associated with Subclinical Atherosclerosis (From the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) 
The American journal of cardiology  2013;111(11):1541-1546.
Subclinical atherosclerosis measured by coronary artery calcium (CAC) is associated with increased risk for multiple cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes and non-CVD death simultaneously, and we sought to determine the competing risks of specific cardiovascular disease (CVD) events and non-CVD death associated with varying burdens of subclinical atherosclerosis. We included 3095 men and 3486 women from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, aged 45–84 years, and from 4 ethnic groups. Participants were stratified by CAC scores: 0, 1–99, and ≥ 100. We used competing Cox models to determine competing cumulative incidences and hazards ratios within a group (e.g., among those with CAC ≥ 100) and hazards ratios for specific events between groups (e.g., CAC ≥ 100 vs. CAC = 0). We compared risks for specific CVD events and also compared against non-CVD death. In women, during a mean follow up of 7.1 years, the hazards ratios (HR) for any CVD event compared with a non-CVD death occurring first for CAC = 0 and CAC ≥ 100 were 1.40 (95% CI, 0.97–2.04) and 3.07 (2.02–4.67), respectively. CHD was the most common first CVD event type at all levels of CAC, and CHD rates were 9.5% vs. 1.6% (HR 6.24; 3.99–9.75) for women with CAC ≥100 compared with CAC = 0. We observed similar results in men. In conclusion, at all levels of CAC, CHD was the most common first CVD event and this analysis represents a novel approach to understanding the temporal sequence of cardiovascular events associated with atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3657323  PMID: 23499272
coronary artery calcium; competing risks
19.  Association between hsCRP≥2, Coronary Artery Calcium, and Cardiovascular Events – Implications for the JUPITER Population: Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Lancet  2011;378(9792):684-692.
The JUPITER trial demonstrated that some patients with LDL-C <130 mg/dL and hsCRP ≥2 mg/L benefit from rosuvastatin, although absolute event rates were low. We sought to determine whether coronary artery calcium (CAC) may further risk stratify a JUPITER-eligible population, and to compare hsCRP vs. CAC for risk prediction in otherwise JUPITER-eligible participants.
A total of 950 MESA participants met all JUPITER entry criteria. We compared CHD and CVD event rates and multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios after stratifying by both presence and burden of CAC (0, 1–100, >100). We also calculated 5-year number needed to treat (NNT5) by applying the benefit observed in JUPITER to the observed event rates within each CAC strata.
Median follow-up was 5.8 years. Approximately 47% of the MESA JUPITER population had CAC=0, and CHD event rates in this group were <1 per 1000 person-years. Over 2/3 of all CHD events occurred in the 25% of participants with CAC >100 (20.2 per 1000 person-years). For CHD, the predicted NNT5 for CAC 0, 1–100, and >100 was 549, 94, and 24 respectively. For CVD, the NNT5 was 124, 54, and 19. Amongst otherwise JUPITER-eligible patients, presence of CAC was associated with 4.3-fold increased CHD (95% CI 2.0 – 9.3) and 2.6-fold increased CVD (95% CI 1.5–4.5), while hsCRP was not associated with either CHD or CVD after multivariable adjustment.
Within MESA, approximately half of JUPITER-eligible participants had CAC=0 and experienced an extremely low 6-year event rate. Nearly all events occurred in patients with CAC. CAC appears to further risk stratify JUPITER-eligible patients and may be used to target a subgroup of patients expected to derive the most, and the least, absolute benefit from statin treatment. Focusing treatment on the subset of individuals with measurable atherosclerosis may represent a more appropriate allocation of resources.
PMCID: PMC3173039  PMID: 21856482
hsCRP; CAC; and Clinical Events
20.  Coronary Artery Calcification and Myocardial Perfusion in Asymptomatic Adults: The MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) 
This study assessed the cross-sectional association between coronary artery calcification (CAC) and myocardial perfusion in an asymptomatic population.
Clinical studies showed that the prevalence of stress-induced ischemia increased with CAC burden among patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). Whether an association between CAC and myocardial perfusion exists in subjects without a history of CHD remains largely unknown.
A total of 222 men and women, ages 45 to 84 years old and free of CHD diagnosis, in the Minnesota field center of the MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) were studied. Myocardial blood flow (MBF) was measured using magnetic resonance imaging during rest and adenosine-induced hyperemia. Perfusion reserve was calculated as the ratio of hyperemic to resting MBF. Agatston CAC score was determined from chest multidetector computed tomography.
Mean values of hyperemic MBF and perfusion reserve, but not resting MBF, were monotonically lower across increasing CAC levels. After adjusting for age and gender, odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) of reduced perfusion reserve (<2.5) for subjects with CAC scores of 0, 0.1 to 99.9, 100 to 399, and ≥400 were 1.00 (reference), 2.16 (0.96 to 4.84), 2.81 (1.04 to 7.58), and 4.99 (1.73 to 14.4), respectively. Further adjustment for other coronary risk factors did not substantially modify the association. However, the inverse association between perfusion reserve and CAC attenuated with advancing age (p for interaction < 0.05).
Coronary vasodilatory response was associated inversely with the presence and severity of CAC in asymptomatic adults. Myocardial perfusion could be impaired by or manifest the progression to subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in the absence of clinical CHD.
PMCID: PMC1853335  PMID: 16949496
21.  Polypill Therapy, Subclinical Atherosclerosis, and Cardiovascular Events – Implications for the Use of Preventive Pharmacotherapy: Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Examine whether the coronary artery calcium score (CAC) can be used to define the target population to treat with a polypill.
Prior studies suggested a single polypill to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) at the population level.
Participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) were stratified using the criteria of four polypill studies (TIPS, Poly-Iran, Wald's, and the PILL collaboration). We compared coronary heart disease (CHD) and CVD event rates and calculated 5-year number needed to treat (NNT) after stratification based on the CAC score.
Among MESA participants eligible for the TIPS, Poly-Iran, Wald's and PILL collaboration, a CAC=0 was observed in 58.6%, 54.5%, 38.9% and 40.8%, respectively. The rate of CHD events among those with CAC=0 varied from 1.2 to 1.9 events per 1000 person-years, those with CAC 1- 100 had event rates ranging from 4.1 to 5.5, and in those with CAC>100 the event rate ranged from 11.6 to 13.3. The estimated 5-year NNT to prevent one CVD event ranged from 81 to 130 for individuals with CAC=0, 38 to 54 for those with CAC 1-100, and 18 to 20 for those with CAC>100.
Among individuals eligible for treatment with the polypill, the majority of events occurred in those with CAC>100. The group with CAC=0 had a very low event rate and a high projected NNT. The avoidance of treatment in individuals with CAC=0 could allow for significant reductions in the population considered for treatment, with a more selective use of the polypill and as a result, avoiding treatment in those who are unlikely to be benefit
PMCID: PMC4174413  PMID: 24161320
subclinical atherosclerosis; risk stratification; polypill
22.  Computed Tomography-Derived Cardiovascular Risk Markers, Incident Cardiovascular Events, and All-Cause Mortality in Non- Diabetics. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
We assess the improvement in discrimination afforded by the addition thoracic aorta calcium (TAC), aortic valve calcification (AVC), mitral annular calcification (MAC), pericardial adipose tissue volume (PAT) and liver attenuation (LA) to Framingham risk score(FRS) + coronary artery calcium (CAC) for incident CHD/CVD in a multi ethnic cohort.
Methods and Results
A total 5745(2710 were intermediate Framingham risk, 210 CVD and 155 CHD events) 251 had adjudicated CHD, 346 had CVD events, 321 died after 9 years of follow-up. Cox proportional hazard, receiver operator curve (ROC) and net reclassification improvement (NRI) analyses.
In the whole cohort and also when the analysis was restricted to only the intermediate risk participants: CAC, TAC, AVC and MAC were all significantly associated with incident CVD/CHD/ mortality; CAC had the strongest association. When added to the FRS, CAC had the highest area under the curve (AUC) for the prediction of incident CHD/CVD; LA had the least. The addition of TAC, AVC, MAC, PAT and LA to FRS + CAC all resulted in a significant reduction in AUC for incident CHD [0.712 vs. 0.646, 0.655, 0.652, 0.648 and 0.569; all p<0.01 respectively] in participants with intermediate FRS. The addition of CAC to FRS resulted in an NRI of 0.547 for incident CHD in the intermediate risk group. The NRI when TAC, AVC, MAC, PAT and LA were added to FRS + CAC were 0.024, 0.026, 0.019, 0.012 and 0.012 respectively, for incident CHD in the intermediate risk group. Similar results were obtained for incident CVD in the intermediate risk group and also when the whole cohort was used instead of the intermediate FRS group.
The addition of CAC to the FRS provides superior discrimination especially in intermediate risk individuals compared with the addition of TAC, AVC, MAC, PAT or LA for incident CHD/CVD. Compared with FRS + CAC, the addition of TAC, AVC, MAC, PAT or LA individually to FRS + CAC worsens the discrimination for incident CHD/CVD. These CT risk markers are unlikely to be useful for improving cardiovascular risk prediction.
PMCID: PMC4150859  PMID: 23689526
cardiac CT derived risk factors; coronary heart disease; cardiovascular events; risk prediction
23.  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
24.  Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Incident Cardiovascular Disease: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Ophthalmology  2011;119(4):765-770.
To determine whether age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a risk indicator for coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) events independent of other known risk factors in a multi-ethnic cohort.
Population-based prospective cohort study.
A diverse population sample of 6233 men and women aged 45–84 without known CVD from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
Participants in the MESA had retinal photographs taken between 2002 and 2003. Photographs were evaluated for AMD. Incident CHD/CVD events were ascertained during clinical follow-up visits for up to 8 years after the retinal images were taken.
Main Outcome Measures
Incident CHD/CVD events.
Of the 6814 persons at risk of CHD, there were 893 participants with early AMD (13.1%) and 27 (0.5%) at baseline. Over a mean follow-up period of 5.4 years, there was no statistically significant difference in incident CHD or CVD between the AMD and non-AMD groups (5.0%vs. 3.9%, p=0.13 for CHD and 6.6 vs. 5.5%, p=0.19 for CVD, respectively). In Cox regression models adjusting for CVD risk factors, there was no significant relationship between presence of any AMD and any CHD/CVD events (HR=0.99, 95% CI 0.74–1.33, p=0.97). No significant association was found between subgroups of early AMD or late AMD and incident CHD/CVD events.
In persons without a history of cardiovascular disease, AMD was not associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.
PMCID: PMC3314126  PMID: 22197438
25.  Association of Plasma Sphingomyelin levels and Incident Coronary Heart Disease Events in an Adult Population: Multi Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
High plasma sphingomyelin level has been associated with subclinical atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease and worse prognosis in subjects with acute coronary syndromes. We assess the predictive value of plasma sphingomyelin levels for incident CHD events in the Multi Ethnic Study of atherosclerosis (MESA).
Method and Results
Plasma sphingomyelin was measured in 6809 out of 6814 subjects with mean age 62.2 ± 10.2 years, participating in the MESA study, a population based cohort study of adults free of clinical CVD at baseline recruited at six clinic sites in USA. The subjects consisted of 52.8% females, 38.5% Caucasian, 11.8% Chinese, 27.8% African Americans and 21.9% Hispanics. Cox proportional hazard analysis was used to examine the association between plasma sphingomyelin and five years of adjudicated incident CHD events including MI, resuscitated cardiac arrest, angina, CHD death and revascularization (CABG or PTCA). Mean (SD) plasma sphingomyelin level was 48 mg/dl (16.0). One hundred and eighty-nine subjects had an adjudicated CHD event during the five years of follow up. In the Kaplan meier analysis, subjects with plasma sphingomyelin level above the sex specific median had similar event free survival rate compared with subjects with plasma sphingomyelin level below or equal to the sex specific median (97.16% vs 97.0%, log rank p= 0.713). In the univariate Cox proportional hazard analysis, plasma sphingomyelin was not a predictor of incident CHD event [hazard ratio 0.992(0.982 – 1.004), p=0.09]. In our multistage multivariable Cox models, higher plasma sphingomyelin had modest negative association with incident CHD events when total cholesterol, HDL and triglycerides were included in the model [hazard ratio 0.985 (0.973 – 0.996), p=0.008] and also in our full model after adjusting for age, gender, total cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides, diabetes, cigarette smoking, systolic BP, diastolic BP, BP medication use, HMG CoA use [hazard ratio 0.984 (0.973 – 0.996), p=0.002]. In other models, plasma sphingomyelin was not associated with incident CHD events.
High plasma sphingomyelin level is not associated with increased risk of incident coronary heart disease in population based adults free of clinical cardiovascular disease at baseline.
PMCID: PMC2862629  PMID: 20032291
Plasma sphingomyelin; prognosis; coronary heart disease events; epidemiology

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