Background: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) showed that the addition of coronary artery calcium (CAC) to traditional risk factors improves risk classification, particularly in intermediate risk asymptomatic patients with LDL cholesterol levels <160 mg/dL. However, the cost-effectiveness of incorporating CAC into treatment decision rules has yet to be clearly delineated. Objective: To model the cost-effectiveness of CAC for cardiovascular risk stratification in asymptomatic, intermediate risk patients not taking a statin. Treatment based on CAC was compared to (1) treatment of all intermediate-risk patients, and (2) treatment on the basis of United States guidelines. Methods: We developed a Markov model of first coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) events. We modeled statin treatment in intermediate risk patients with CAC≥1 and CAC≥100, with different intensities of statins based on the CAC score. We compared these CAC-based treatment strategies to a "treat all" strategy and to treatment according to the Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III) guidelines. Clinical and economic outcomes were modeled over both five- and ten-year time horizons. Outcomes consisted of CHD and CVD events and Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs). Sensitivity analyses considered the effect of higher event rates, different CAC and statin costs, indirect costs, and re-scanning patients with incidentalomas. Results: We project that it is both cost-saving and more effective to scan intermediate-risk patients for CAC and to treat those with CAC≥1, compared to treatment based on established risk-assessment guidelines. Treating patients with CAC≥100 is also preferred to existing guidelines when we account for statin side effects and the disutility of statin use. Conclusion: Compared to the alternatives we assessed, CAC testing is both effective and cost saving as a risk-stratification tool, particularly if there are adverse effects of long-term statin use. CAC may enable providers to better tailor preventive therapy to patients' risks of CVD.
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