Role of Computed Tomography for Diagnosis and Risk Stratification of Patients With Suspected or Known Coronary Artery Disease
Cardiac computed tomographic angiography (CCTA) has emerged as a powerful imaging modality for the detection and prognostication of individuals with suspected coronary artery disease. Because calcification of coronary plaque occurs in proportion to the total atheroma volume, the initial diagnostic potential of CCTA focused on the identification and quantification of coronary calcium in low- to intermediate-risk individuals, a finding that tracks precisely with the risk of incident adverse clinical events. Beyond noncontrast detection of coronary calcium, CCTA using iodinated contrast yields incremental information about the degree and distribution of coronary plaques and stenosis, as well as vessel wall morphology and atherosclerotic plaque features. This additive information offers the promise of CCTA to provide a more comprehensive view of total atherosclerotic burden because it relates to myocardial ischemia and future adverse clinical events. Furthermore, emerging data suggest the prognostic and diagnostic importance of stenosis severity detection and atherosclerotic plaque features described by CCTA including positive remodeling, low-attenuation plaque, and spotty calcification, which have been associated with the vulnerability of plaque. We report a summary of the evidence supporting the role of CCTA in the detection of subclinical and clinical coronary artery disease in both asymptomatic and symptomatic patients and discuss the potential of CCTA to augment the identification of at-risk individuals. CCTA and coronary artery calcium scoring offer the ability to improve risk stratification, discrimination, and reclassification of the risk in patients with suspected coronary artery disease and to noninvasively determine the measures of stenosis severity and atherosclerotic plaque features.
- Received December 17, 2013.
- Accepted March 25, 2014.
- © 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.