The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of computed tomography screening for coronary artery disease: systematic review

Waugh N, Black C, Walker S, McIntyre L, Cummins E, Hillis G
Record ID 32006001026
Authors' objectives:

The aim of this review is to assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of computed tomography (CT) screening for asymptomatic coronary artery disease; also to establish whether coronary artery calcification (CAC) predicts coronary events and adds anything to risk factor scores, and whether measuring CAC changes treatment.

Authors' results and conclusions: No randomised control trials (RCTs) were found that assessed the value of CT screening in reducing cardiac events. Seven studies were identified that assessed the association between CAC scores on CT and cardiac outcomes in asymptomatic people and included 30,599 people. Six used electron-beam CT. The relative risk of a cardiac event was 4.4 if CAC was present, compared to there being no CAC. As CAC score increased, so did the risk of cardiac events. The correlation between CAC and cardiac risk was consistent across studies. There was evidence that CAC scores varied among people with the same Framingham risk factor scores, and that within the same Framingham bands, people with higher CAC scores had significantly higher cardiac event rates. This applied mainly when the CAC scores exceeded 300. There was little difference in event rates among the groups with no CAC, and scores of 1-100 and 101-300. In one study, CAC score was a better predictor of cardiac events than the Framingham risk scores. No studies were found that showed whether the addition of CAC scores to standard risk factor assessment would improve outcomes. There were reports from two observational studies that lowering of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol to about 3 mmol l-1 or below with statin treatment modestly reduced CAC scores, but this was not confirmed in two RCTs. In three studies examining whether knowledge of CAC scores would affect compliance with lifestyle measures, perception of risk was affected, but it did not improve smoking cessation rates, although it did increase anxiety.
Authors' recommendations: CT examination of the coronary arteries can detect calcification indicative of arterial disease in asymptomatic people, many of whom would be at low risk when assessed by traditional risk factors. The higher the CAC score, the higher the risk. Treatment with statins can reduce that risk. However, CT screening would miss many of the most dangerous patches of arterial disease, because they are not yet calcified, and so there would be false-negative results: normal CT followed by a heart attack. There would also be false-positive results in that many calcified arteries will have normal blood flow and will not be affected by clinically apparent thrombosis: abnormal CT not followed by a heart attack. For CT screening to be cost-effective, it has to add value over risk factor scoring, by producing sufficient additional information to change treatment and hence cardiac outcomes, at an affordable cost per quality-adjusted life-year. There was insufficient evidence to support this. Most of the NSC criteria were either not met or only partially met. It would be useful to have more data on the distributions of risk scores and CAC scores in asymptomatic people, and the level of concordance between risk factor and CAC scores, the risk of cardiac events per annum according to CAC score and risk factor scores, information on the acceptability of CT screening, after information about the radiation dose, and an RCT of adding CT screening to current risk factor-based practice.
Authors' methods: Systematic review
Project Status: Completed
URL for project:
Year Published: 2006
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: England, United Kingdom
MeSH Terms
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
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Copyright: 2006 Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.