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Effect of No-Charge Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring on Cardiovascular Prevention

      Prevention of cardiovascular disease is currently guided by probabilistic risk scores that may misclassify individual risk and commit many middle-aged patients to prolonged pharmacotherapy. The coronary artery calcium (CAC) score, although endorsed for intermediate-risk patients, is not widely adopted because of barriers in reimbursement. The impact of removing cost barrier on cardiovascular outcomes in real-world settings is not known. Within the University Hospitals Health System (Cleveland, Ohio), CAC was offered to patients with at least 1 cardiovascular risk factor at low charge between 2014 and 2017 ($99) and no charge from January 1, 2018 onward. CAC use and access, patient characteristics, reclassification of risk compared with the pooled cohort equations (PCEs) for atherosclerotic vascular disease, statin use, changes in parameters of cardiometabolic health, downstream cardiovascular testing, downstream coronary revascularization, and cardiovascular outcomes were evaluated. A total of 52,151 patients underwent CAC testing over the study period. Median 10-year PCE for atherosclerotic vascular disease, in the entire cohort was 8.3% (4.0% to 15.9%). Among patients with PCE >20%, 21% had CAC <100, whereas 37% of those with PCE <7.5% had CAC ≥100. Among patients who were not on statin before CAC testing, 1-year statin prescription was 24% and was significantly associated with higher CAC scores. Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides all decreased significantly 1-year after CAC, and the degree of decrease was strongly linked with CAC scores. One year after CAC, 14% underwent noninvasive ischemic evaluation, 1.4% underwent invasive coronary angiography, and 0.9% underwent revascularization. The majority (74%) of revascularization procedures occurred in patients with CAC >400. In conclusion, reducing or removing the cost burden of CAC leads to significant test uptake by patients, which is followed by reclassification of statin eligibility, increases in the use of preventive medications, and improvement in risk factors, with very low rates of invasive downstream testing.
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