Coronary artery calcium score (CACS) is a strong predictor of major adverse cardiac events (MACE). Conversely, statins, which markedly reduce MACE risk, increase CACS. We explored whether CACS progression represents compositional plaque volume (PV) progression differently according to statin use.
From a prospective multinational registry of consecutive patients (n = 2252) who underwent serial coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) at a ≥ 2-year interval, 654 patients (61 ± 10 years, 56% men, inter-scan interval 3.9 ± 1.5 years) with information regarding the use of statins and having a serial CACS were included. Patients were divided into non-statin (n = 246) and statin-taking (n = 408) groups. Coronary PVs (total, calcified, and non-calcified; sum of fibrous, fibro-fatty, and lipid-rich) were quantitatively analysed, and CACS was measured from both CCTAs. Multivariate linear regression models were constructed for both statin-taking and non-statin group to assess the association between compositional PV change and change in CACS. In multivariate linear regression analysis, in the non-statin group, CACS increase was positively associated with both non-calcified (β = 0.369, P = 0.004) and calcified PV increase (β = 1.579, P < 0.001). However, in the statin-taking group, CACS increase was positively associated with calcified PV change (β = 0.756, P < 0.001) but was negatively associated with non-calcified PV change (β = -0.194, P = 0.026).
In the non-statin group, CACS progression indicates the progression of both non-calcified and calcified PV progression. However, under the effect of statins, CACS progression indicates only calcified PV progression, but not non-calcified PV progression. Thus, the result of serial CACS should be differently interpreted according to the use of statins.