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Role of Coronary Artery Calcium Score of Zero and Other Negative Risk Markers for Cardiovascular Disease



Limited attention has been paid to negative cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk markers despite their potential to improve medical decision making. We compared 13 negative risk markers using diagnostic likelihood ratios (DLRs), which model the change in risk for an individual after the result of an additional test.

Methods and results

We examined 6814 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Coronary artery calcium score of 0, carotid intima-media thickness <25th percentile, absence of carotid plaque, brachial flow-mediated dilation >5% change, ankle-brachial index >0.9 and <1.3, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein <2 mg/L, homocysteine <10 µmol/L, N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide <100 pg/mL, no microalbuminuria, no family history of coronary heart disease (any/premature), absence of metabolic syndrome, and healthy lifestyle were compared for all and hard coronary heart disease and all CVD events over the 10-year follow-up. Models were adjusted for traditional CVD risk factors. Among all negative risk markers, coronary artery calcium score of 0 was the strongest, with an adjusted mean DLR of 0.41 (SD, 0.12) for all coronary heart disease and 0.54 (SD, 0.12) for CVD, followed by carotid intima-media thickness <25th percentile (DLR, 0.65 [SD, 0.04] and 0.75 [SD, 0.04], respectively). High-sensitivity C-reactive protein <2 mg/L and normal ankle-brachial index had DLRs >0.80. Among clinical features, absence of any family history of coronary heart disease was the strongest (DLRs, 0.76 [SD, 0.07] and 0.81 [SD, 0.06], respectively). Net reclassification improvement analyses yielded similar findings, with coronary artery calcium score of 0 resulting in the largest, most accurate downward risk reclassification.


Negative results of atherosclerosis-imaging tests, particularly coronary artery calcium score of 0, resulted in the greatest downward shift in estimated CVD risk. These results may help guide discussions on the identification of individuals less likely to receive net benefit from lifelong preventive pharmacotherapy.

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