Background. Vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry can visualize abdominal aortic calcification (AAC). AAC correlates with total atherosclerosis burden. We questioned whether VFA-detected AAC could be used for cardiovascular risk assessment.
Methods. VFA images of 2,500 subjects were evaluated to detect and score AAC (n = 164). A random age- and gender-matched set of subjects (n = 325) without AAC served as control group. Patients with prior cardiovascular disease or procedures were excluded. Base-line cardiovascular risk factors and further cardiovascular events were checked. Design-based Cox regression analysis was used to examine the prognostic value of AAC for cardiovascular outcomes.
Results. AAC-positive subjects were divided into two groups: low-AAC (score 1-3), and high-AAC group (score > 3). Mean age in the groups was 68, 68, and 71 years, percentage of females was 64.4%, 61%, and 66.1%, and the proportion of cardiovascular events within groups was 1.5%, 6.7%, and 11.9% in control, low-AAC, and high-AAC groups, respectively. Age- and gender-adjusted as well as multivariable analysis showed a significant, higher risk for cardiovascular events incidence in AAC-positive, low-AAC, and high-AAC when compared to the control group.
Interpretation. AAC assessed with routine VFA was shown to be a strong predictor for cardiovascular events.