Detection of subclinical cardiovascular disease: The emerging role of electron beam computed tomography

Stuart Rich*, Vallerie V. McLaughlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background. Although extraordinary advances have been made in the management of advanced coronary artery disease, little progress has been made in its prevention. Traditional screening methods utilizing risk factor profiles and exercise treadmill tests have failed to identify populations who will subsequently have coronary events with a high degree of predictive accuracy. Methods. We review the pathobiologic basis and clinical utility of electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) to detect coronary artery calcium as a screening tool for subclinical coronary artery disease. Because EBCT is able to perform subsecond imaging of the heart, it can detect and quantitate coronary artery calcium with a high degree of precision. Coronary artery calcium is a marker of complex atherosclerosis. Results. Over 4,000 asymptomatic patients in several series have been studied with EBCT and followed prospectively for an average of 42 months (range 37-72 months). A positive scan is associated with a risk ratio for future coronary events of 8.7 (95% confidence interval 2.67 to 28.13). These data indicate that EBCT has the ability to detect subclinical coronary artery disease and predict future coronary events better than any previous existing method or technology. Conclusion. EBCT coronary artery screening may prove to be a valuable adjunct to the traditional methods for the detection of subclinical coronary artery disease and to identify those who would benefit from focused preventive therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPreventive medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Coronary artery calcium
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Electron beam CT
  • Subclinical coronary artery disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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