OBJECTIVES: Cardiovascular events remain one of the most frequent causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide. The majority of cardiac events occur in individuals without known coronary artery disease (CAD) and in low- to intermediate-risk subjects. Thus, the development of improved preventive strategies may substantially benefit from the identification, among apparently intermediate-risk subjects, of those who have a high probability for developing future cardiac events. Cardiac computed tomography and myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (MPS) by single photon emission computed tomography may play a role in this setting. In fact, absence of coronary calcium in cardiac computed tomography and inducible ischaemia in MPS are associated with a very low rate of major cardiac events in the next 3–5 years.
METHODS: Based on current evidence, the evaluation of coronary calcium in primary prevention subjects should be considered in patients classified as intermediate-risk based on traditional risk factors, since high calcium scores identify subjects at high-risk who may benefit from aggressive secondary prevention strategies. In addition, calcium scoring should be considered for asymptomatic type 2 diabetic patients without known CAD to select those in whom further functional testing by MPS or other stress imaging techniques may be considered to identify patients with significant inducible ischaemia.
RESULTS: From available data, the use of MPS as first line testing modality for risk stratification is not recommended in any category of primary prevention subjects with the possible exception of first-degree relatives of patients with premature CAD in whom MPS may be considered.
CONCLUCIONS: However, the Working Group recognizes that neither the use of computed tomography for calcium imaging nor of MPS have been proven to significantly improve clinical outcomes of primary prevention subjects in prospective controlled studies. This information would be crucial to adequately define the role of imaging approaches in cardiovascular preventive strategies.
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