Prevalence of obstructive coronary artery disease and prognosis in patients with stable symptoms and a zero-coronary calcium score

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CT calcium scoring (CTCS) and CT cardiac angiography (CTCA) are widely used in patients with stable chest pain to exclude significant coronary artery disease (CAD). We aimed to resolve uncertainty about the prevalence of obstructive coronary artery disease and long-term outcomes in patients with a zero-calcium score (ZCS).

Methods and results

Consecutive patients with stable cardiac symptoms referred for CTCS or CTCS and CTCA from chest pain clinics to a tertiary cardiothoracic centre were prospectively enrolled. In those with a ZCS, the prevalence of obstructive CAD on CTCA was determined. A follow-up for all-cause mortality was obtained from the NHS tracer service. A total of 3914 patients underwent CTCS of whom 2730 (69.7%) also had a CTCA. Half of the patients were men (50.3%) with a mean age of 56.9 years. Among patients who had both procedures, a ZCS was present in 52.2%, with a negative predictive value of 99.5% for excluding ≥70% stenosis on CTCA. During a mean follow-up of 5.2 years, the annual event rate was 0.3% for those with ZCS compared with 1.2% for CS ≥1. The presence of non-calcified atheroma on CTCA in patients with ZCS did not affect the prognostic value (P = 0.98).


In patients with stable symptoms and a ZCS, obstructive CAD is rare, and prognosis over the long-term is excellent, regardless of whether non-calcified atheroma is identified. A ZCS could reliably be used as a ‘gatekeeper’ in this patient cohort, obviating the need for further more expensive tests.

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