Coronary atherosclerosis may develop at an early age and remain latent for many years.
To define characteristics of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis associated with the development of myocardial infarction.
Prospective observational cohort study.
Copenhagen General Population Study, Denmark.
9533 asymptomatic persons aged 40 years or older without known ischemic heart disease.
Subclinical coronary atherosclerosis was assessed with coronary computed tomography angiography conducted blinded to treatment and outcomes. Coronary atherosclerosis was characterized according to luminal obstruction (nonobstructive or obstructive [≥50% luminal stenosis]) and extent (nonextensive or extensive [one third or more of the coronary tree]). The primary outcome was myocardial infarction, and the secondary outcome was a composite of death or myocardial infarction.
A total of 5114 (54%) persons had no subclinical coronary atherosclerosis, 3483 (36%) had nonobstructive disease, and 936 (10%) had obstructive disease. Within a median follow-up of 3.5 years (range, 0.1 to 8.9 years), 193 persons died and 71 had myocardial infarction. The risk for myocardial infarction was increased in persons with obstructive (adjusted relative risk, 9.19 [95% CI, 4.49 to 18.11]) and extensive (7.65 [CI, 3.53 to 16.57]) disease. The highest risk for myocardial infarction was noted in persons with obstructive-extensive subclinical coronary atherosclerosis (adjusted relative risk, 12.48 [CI, 5.50 to 28.12]) or obstructive-nonextensive (adjusted relative risk, 8.28 [CI, 3.75 to 18.32]). The risk for the composite end point of death or myocardial infarction was increased in persons with extensive disease, regardless of degree of obstruction—for example, nonobstructive-extensive (adjusted relative risk, 2.70 [CI, 1.72 to 4.25]) and obstructive-extensive (adjusted relative risk, 3.15 [CI, 2.05 to 4.83]).
Mostly White persons were studied.
In asymptomatic persons, subclinical, obstructive coronary atherosclerosis is associated with a more than 8-fold elevated risk for myocardial infarction.