Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

The evolving view of coronary artery calcium and cardiovascular disease risk

Published Web Location

Calcification of the coronary artery is a complex pathophysiologic process that is intimately associated with atherosclerosis. Extensive investigation has demonstrated the value of identifying and quantifying coronary artery calcium (CAC) in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) prognostication. However, over the last several years, an increasing body of evidence has suggested that CAC has underappreciated aspects that modulate, and at times attenuate, future CVD risk. The most commonly used measure of CAC, the Agatston unit, effectively models both higher density and higher area of CAC as risk factors for future CVD events. Recent findings from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) have challenged this assumption, demonstrating that higher density of CAC is protective for coronary heart disease and CVD events. Statins may be associated with an increase in CAC, an unexpected finding given their clear benefits in the prevention and treatment of CVD. Studies utilizing intracoronary ultrasound and coronary computed tomography angiography have demonstrated that calcified atherosclerotic plaque-as compared with noncalcified or sparsely calcified plaque-is associated with fewer CVD events. These studies lend support to the often-asserted (but as yet unvalidated) view that calcification may play a role in plaque stabilization. Furthermore, vascular calcification, though a surrogate for atherosclerotic plaque burden, may also possess identifiable aspects that can refine CVD risk assessment.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View