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AIMS: Coronary artery calcification is a marker of cardiovascular risk, but its association with qualitatively and quantitatively assessed plaque subtypes is unknown. METHODS AND RESULTS: In this post-hoc analysis, computed tomography (CT) images and 5-year clinical outcomes were assessed in SCOT-HEART trial participants. Agatston coronary artery calcium score (CACS) was measured on non-contrast CT and was stratified as zero (0 Agatston units, AU), minimal (1-9 AU), low (10-99 AU), moderate (100-399 AU), high (400-999 AU), and very high (≥1000 AU). Adverse plaques were investigated by qualitative (visual categorization of positive remodelling, low-attenuation plaque, spotty calcification, and napkin ring sign) and quantitative (calcified, non-calcified, low-attenuation, and total plaque burden; Autoplaque) assessments. Of 1769 patients, 36% had a zero, 9% minimal, 20% low, 17% moderate, 10% high, and 8% very high CACS. Amongst patients with a zero CACS, 14% had non-obstructive disease, 2% had obstructive disease, 2% had visually assessed adverse plaques, and 13% had low-attenuation plaque burden >4%. Non-calcified and low-attenuation plaque burden increased between patients with zero, minimal, and low CACS (P 1000 AU and low-attenuation plaque burden were the only predictors of myocardial infarction, independent of obstructive disease, and 10-year cardiovascular risk score. CONCLUSION: In patients with stable chest pain, zero CACS is associated with a good but not perfect prognosis, and CACS cannot rule out obstructive coronary artery disease, non-obstructive plaque, or adverse plaque phenotypes, including low-attenuation plaque.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur heart j cardiovasc imaging

Publication Date





1210 - 1221


atherosclerotic plaque, computed tomography, computed tomography coronary angiography, coronary calcium score, low-attenuation plaque, Calcium, Computed Tomography Angiography, Coronary Angiography, Coronary Artery Disease, Humans, Myocardial Infarction, Plaque, Atherosclerotic, Predictive Value of Tests, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors, Tomography, X-Ray Computed, Vascular Calcification