Study objective: The value of detecting coronary artery calcification (CAC), by cardiac imaging, for the diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD) in asymptomatic middle-aged men has been demonstrated. However, the incidence of CAC increases with age. The functional significance of CAC remains unknown in asymptomatic elderly men. The purpose of this study is to explore whether CAC in asymptomatic aging men signifies the presence of cardiovascular dysfunction during exercise.
Design: This study was designed to address whether elderly asymptomatic men, selected because they have CAC, have reduced exercise tolerance due to functionally significant CAD.
Participants and setting: Thirty-eight asymptomatic male volunteers (ages 50 to 75 years, mean [± SD] 64 ± 7 years) with a normal resting ECG and at least one coronary risk factor, in a population study. Nineteen subjects had CAC detected by digital subtraction fluoroscopy in at least two major coronary arteries, and 19 subjects had no identifiable CAC.
Methods and results: Each subject underwent a symptom-limited incremental exercise test with 12-lead ECG monitoring and respiratory gas analysis. Four indexes of exercise oxygen transport were evaluated: peak oxygen uptake (VO2), lactic acidosis threshold, peak VO2/heart rate ratio, and VO2 relative to a work rate increase. Eleven of 38 subjects (28%) were found to have reduced oxygen transport, which was defined as an abnormal reduction in more than two of the above four indexes of oxygen transport. Five of the 11 subjects with reduced oxygen transport had CAC, and 6 subjects did not (not significant). Only one subject with CAC had exercise ST depression.
Conclusion: Significant CAC in asymptomatic men over age 50 does not signify exercise limitation due to CAD.