BACKGROUND: Coronary artery calcification (CAC) can be detected by cardiac computed tomography (CT), is associated to cardiovascular risk, and common in asymptomatic individuals and patients referred for cardiac CT.
DESIGN: CAC was evaluated in asymptomatic individuals and symptomatic patients referred for cardiac CT, to assess whether differences in CAC may be explained by symptoms or traditional cardiovascular risk factors.
METHODS: The presence and extent of CAC, gender, family history of coronary artery disease, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, diabetes and tobacco were compared in 1220 asymptomatic individuals aged 49-61 years and 2257 age-matched symptomatic patients referred for cardiac CT with suspected coronary artery disease.
RESULTS: Symptomatic individuals had a higher frequency of a family history of coronary artery disease (46% vs. 23%, p < 0.001), hypertension (38% vs. 21%, p < 0.001), hyperlipidaemia (42% vs. 12%, p < 0.001), a trend for more diabetes (6% vs. 5%, p = 0.05), but no significant difference was observed for the presence of CAC (Agatston > 0; 45% vs. 45%, p = 0.94) or severe calcifications (Agatston > 400; 6% vs. 5%, p = 0.36). In multivariate analyses age (odds ratio (OR) 1.09-1.18), male gender (OR 3.5-6.43), hypertension (OR 1.42-1.79), hyperlipidaemia (OR 1.86-2.09) and tobacco use (OR 1.83-2.01) were predictors for the presence and extent of CAC, whereas symptoms were not predictive for the presence of (Agatston > 0, OR 0.70 (0.59-0.83)), mild (Agatston ≥ 10; OR 0.85 (0.71-1.02)), moderate (Agatston ≥ 100; OR 0.99 (0.79-1.24)) or severe calcifications (Agatston ≥ 400; OR 0.93 (0.65-1.33)).
CONCLUSION: No difference in the presence or severity of coronary calcifications was observed between asymptomatic and symptomatic middle-aged individuals. After adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors, symptoms were not predictive for the presence or extent of CAC.