Prevalence and clinical implications of coronary artery calcium scoring on non-gated thoracic computed tomography: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Maia Osborne-Grinter (Lead / Corresponding author), Adnan Ali, Michelle C. Williams

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Objectives: Coronary artery calcifications (CACs) indicate the presence of coronary artery disease. CAC can be found on thoracic computed tomography (CT) conducted for non-cardiac reasons. This systematic review and meta-analysis of non-gated thoracic CT aims to assess the clinical impact and prevalence of CAC. Methods: Online databases were searched for articles assessing prevalence, demographic characteristics, accuracy and prognosis of incidental CAC on non-gated thoracic CT. Meta-analysis was performed using a random effects model. Results: A total of 108 studies (113,406 patients) were included (38% female). Prevalence of CAC ranged from 2.7 to 100% (pooled prevalence 52%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 46–58%). Patients with CAC were older (pooled standardised mean difference 0.88, 95% CI 0.65–1.11, p < 0.001), and more likely to be male (pooled odds ratio [OR] 1.95, 95% CI 1.55–2.45, p < 0.001), with diabetes (pooled OR 2.63, 95% CI 1.95–3.54, p < 0.001), hypercholesterolaemia (pooled OR 2.28, 95% CI 1.33–3.93, p < 0.01) and hypertension (pooled OR 3.89, 95% CI 2.26–6.70, p < 0.001), but not higher body mass index or smoking. Non-gated CT assessment of CAC had excellent agreement with electrocardiogram-gated CT (pooled correlation coefficient 0.96, 95% CI 0.92–0.98, p < 0.001). In 51,582 patients, followed-up for 51.6 ± 27.4 months, patients with CAC had increased all cause mortality (pooled relative risk [RR] 2.13, 95% CI 1.57–2.90, p = 0.004) and major adverse cardiovascular events (pooled RR 2.91, 95% CI 2.26–3.93, p < 0.001). When CAC was present on CT, it was reported in between 18.6% and 93% of reports. Conclusion: CAC is a common, but underreported, finding on non-gated CT with important prognostic implications. Clinical relevance statement: Coronary artery calcium is an important prognostic indicator of cardiovascular disease. It can be assessed on non-gated thoracic CT and is a commonly underreported finding. This represents a significant population where there is a potential missed opportunity for lifestyle modification recommendations and preventative therapies. This study aims to highlight the importance of reporting incidental coronary artery calcium on non-gated thoracic CT. Key Points: • Coronary artery calcification is a common finding on non-gated thoracic CT and can be reliably identified compared to gated-CT. • Coronary artery calcification on thoracic CT is associated with an increased risk of all cause mortality and major adverse cardiovascsular events. • Coronary artery calcification is frequently not reported on non-gated thoracic CT.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Radiology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2023


  • Coronary artery calcifications
  • Coronary artery disease
  • X-ray computed tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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