Radiology: New coronary calcium measurement beats the tried-and-true approach

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Calcium coverage scoring, which identifies the amount and distribution of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries, may better predict a person's risk of heart attack than calcium burden alone, according to a multicenter study published in the June issue of Radiology.

"Now we know that the location of the calcium in the arteries is particularly important in estimating a patient's potential risk," said lead author Elizabeth Brown, ScD, a research assistant professor in the department of biostatistics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Researchers, who used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), developed a calcium coverage score to estimate the percentage of coronary arteries affected by plaque.

They found that the calcium coverage score was a better predictor of future cardiac events than currently used measures that gauge only the amount of calcium present.

They also found that diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia were highly associated with calcium coverage score. 

On average, compared to patients without diabetes, patients with diabetes had 44 percent more of their coronary arteries affected by plaque. A two-fold increase in calcium coverage score indicated a 34 percent increase in risk of heart attack or other serious cardiac event and a 52 percent increase in the risk of any cardiac event, according to the study.