Imaging of the aorta has received less attention than imaging of the coronary beds, despite the possible link between aortic and coronary artery disease (CAD). Electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) with 100 ms scanning speed can eliminate pulsation-related motion artifacts. The goals of this study were to evaluate EBCT-detected subclinical atherosclerosis over the whole aorta as in routine abdominal and thoracic CT scans and analyze whether or not the measurements of aortic calcification (AC) can independently predict the presence of coronary artery calcification (CAC), which is a surrogate marker of CAD.
A consecutive series of 196 adults (male:female, 127:69; mean age, 65.9±10.5 years) were enrolled for EBCT examinations of the coronary arteries and whole aorta. CAC and AC were calculated by the Agatston method. Major cardiovascular risk factors were also recorded.
The greatest amount of AC was seen at the abdominal aorta, followed by the descending aortic arch, thoracic aorta, and ascending aorta. Total AC was significantly correlated with CAC (r=0.51, p< 0.001). After adjustment for major cardiovascular risk factors of age, gender, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and family history, the three independent significant determinants of CAC were abdominal AC, thoracic descending AC, and male gender (model r2 = 0.495, p<0.001). For receiver operating characteristic analysis in predicting the presence of CAC, the threshold of descending AC was 11, with 68.3% sensitivity and 75.0% specificity. The optimal threshold of abdominal AC was 123, with 74.1% sensitivity and 67.9% specificity.
AC values in different portions of the aorta are independent predictors for the presence of CAC.