Coronary artery calcium scores (CACS) are used to help assess patients’ cardiovascular status and risk. From 2772 records screened, 6 eligible cohort studies were identified (with 1043 CVD events in 17961 unique participants) from the US (n=3), the Netherlands (n=1), Germany (n=1), and South Korea (n=1). Studies varied in size from 470 to 5185 participants (range of mean [SD] ages, 50  to 75.1 [7.3] years; 38.4%-59.4% were women). The C statistic for the CVD risk models without CACS ranged from 0.693 (95% CI, 0.661-0.726) to 0.80. The pooled gain in C statistic from adding CACS was 0.036 (95% CI, 0.020-0.052). Among participants classified as being at low risk by the risk score and reclassified as at intermediate or high risk by CACS, 85.5% (65 of 76) to 96.4% (349 of 362) did not have a CVD event during follow-up (range, 5.1-10.0 years). Among participants classified as being at high risk by the risk score and reclassified as being at low risk by CACS, 91.4% (202 of 221) to 99.2% (502 of 506) did not have a CVD event during follow-up.
This systematic review and meta-analysis found that the CACS appears to add some further discrimination to the traditional CVD risk assessment equations used in these studies, which appears to be relatively consistent across studies. However, the modest gain may often be outweighed by costs, rates of incidental findings, and radiation risks.