Medical Policy: 06.01.06
Original Effective Date: September 2000
Reviewed: September 2014
Revised: September 2014
Benefit determinations are based on the applicable contract language in effect at the time the
services were rendered. Exclusions, limitations or exceptions may apply. Benefits may vary
based on contract, and individual member benefits must be verified. Wellmark determines medical
necessity only if the benefit exists and no contract exclusions are applicable. This medical
policy may not apply to FEP. Benefits are determined by the Federal Employee Program.
This Medical Policy document describes the status of medical technology at the time the document
was developed. Since that time, new technology may have emerged or new medical literature may
have been published. This Medical Policy will be reviewed regularly and be updated as scientific
and medical literature becomes available.
Quantitative coronary artery calcium scoring may be used as a screening test for detecting individuals who may be at risk for developing coronary artery disease. This test may be performed using electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) or multislice computed tomography scanners dedicated to cardiac imaging.
Electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) uses an electron gun and stationary tungsten “target” rather than standard x-ray tube to generate x-rays, permitting very rapid scanning times.
Multi-slice spiral computed tomography is equipped with multiple and thinner detector rows, and have a faster x-ray tube rotation speed.
The rationale for measuring calcium in coronary arteries is that it measures coronary atherosclerosis. Coronary calcium is present in coronary atherosclerosis detected may or may not be causing ischemia or symptoms. Such a measure may be correlated with the presence of critical coronary stenosis or serve as a measure of the patient’s tendency toward atherosclerosis and future coronary disease. Therefore, it could serve as a variable to be used in risk assessment calculation purposes of determining appropriate preventative treatment in asymptomatic patients. Alternatively, in other clinical scenarios, it might help determine whether there is atherosclerotic etiology or component to the presenting clinical problem in symptomatic patients, thus helping to direct further workup for the clinical problem. In this second scenario, a calcium score of zero usually indicates that the patient’s clinical problem is unlikely to be due to atherosclerosis and that other etiologies should be more strongly considered. In neither case does the test actually determine a specific diagnosis. Most clinical studies have examined the use of coronary calcium for its potential use in estimating the risk of future coronary heart disease (CAD) events.
Coronary calcium levels can be expressed in many ways. The most widely used is the Agatston score, which is a weighted summed total of calcified coronary artery area observed on computed tomography. This value can be expressed as an absolute number, commonly ranging from 0 to 400. These values can be translated into age and sex-specific percentile values.
- 0 – no identifiable disease
- 1 to 99 – mild disease
- 100 to 399 – moderate disease
- > 400 – severe disease
Despite the potential benefits of coronary artery calcium screening, it is also subject to a number of limitations and therefore, there is disagreement on its value:
- 0 – no identifiable disease
- 1 to 99 – mild disease
- 100 to 399 – moderate disease
- > 400 – severe disease
Practice Guidelines and Position Statements
In 2009 the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force issued recommendations regarding using nontraditional risk factors in coronary heart disease risk assessment, current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of using the nontraditional risk factors discussed in this statement to screen asymptomatic men and women with no history of CHD to prevent CHD events.
The nontraditional risk factors included in this recommendation are high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), ankle-brachial index (ABI), leukocyte count, fasting blood glucose level, periodontal disease, carotid intima-media thickness (carotid IMT), coronary artery calcification (CAC) score on electron beam computed tomography (EBCT), homocysteine level, and lipoprotein(a) level.
American College of Cardiology Foundation (ACCF) and the American Heart Association (AHA):
2010 practice guideline by American College of Cardiology Foundation and the American Heart Association, for assessment of cardiovascular risk in asymptomatic adults: Computed Tomography for Coronary Calcium Scoring:
- Class IIa recommendation: Measurement of CAC is reasonable for cardiovascular risk assessment in asymptomatic adults at intermediate risk (10% to 20% 10 year risk). (Level of Evidence: B)
- Class IIb recommendation: Measurement of CAC may be reasonable for cardiovascular risk assessment in persons at low to intermediate risk (6% to 10% 10 year risk). (Level of Evidence: B)
- Class III recommendation: No Benefit. Persons as low risk (<6% 10 year risk) should not undergo CAC measurement for cardiovascular risk assessment. (Level of Evidence: B)
In 2012, the American College of Cardiology (ACC)/ American Heart Association (AHA) released guidelines for the diagnosis and management of patients with stable ischemic heart disease that include some recommendations related to CAC scoring.
- Class IIb recommendation: For patients with low to intermediate pretest probability of obstructive IHD, non-contrast cardiac computed tomography to determine the coronary artery calcium score may be considered. (Level of Evidence: C)
Class IIb recommendation: For patients with low to intermediate pretest probability of obstructive IHD, non-contrast cardiac computed tomography to determine the coronary artery calcium score may be considered. (Level of Evidence: C)
- Recommendation 1. If, after quantitative risk assessment, a risk based treatment decision is uncertain, assessment or 1 or more of the following: family history, hs-CRP, coronary artery calcification (CAC) score, or ABI may be considered to inform treatment decision making. (Level of Evidence: B)
Based on the literature there is evidence on the predictive value of coronary artery calcium (CAC) score screening for cardiovascular disease among asymptomatic patients, and this evidence demonstrates that scanning has incremental predictive accuracy above traditional risk factor measurement. However, evidence from high-quality studies that demonstrate that the use of CAC score measurement in clinical practice leads to changes in patient management or in individual risk behaviors that improve cardiac outcomes is lacking.
CAC scoring has a potential role as a diagnostic test to rule out coronary artery disease (CAD) in patients presenting with symptoms or as a “gatekeeper” test before invasive imaging is performed. Evidence from retrospective studies suggests that negative results on CAC scoring rules out CAD with good reliability. However, further prospective trials would be needed to demonstrate that such a strategy is effective in practice and is at least as effective as alternate strategies for ruling out CAD.
Because of the lack of high-quality evidence demonstrating improved outcomes from either the use of CAC score as a screening test to risk stratify patients or as a diagnostic test in symptomatic patients, the use of CAC scoring is considered investigational.
Quantitative coronary artery calcium scoring, either by electron beam computed tomography or multislice computed tomography (EBCT) scanner is considered investigational.
Based on peer reviewed literature because of the lack of high-quality evidence demonstrating improved outcomes from either the use of CAC score as a screening tests to risk stratify patients or as a diagnostic test in symptomatic patients and the lack of strong recommendations from authoritative sources, quantitative coronary artery calcium scoring is considered investigational.
Procedure Codes and Billing Guidelines:
- To report provider services, use appropriate CPT* codes, Modifiers, Alpha Numeric (HCPCS level 2) codes, Revenue codes, and/or ICD-9 diagnostic codes.
- S8092 Electron beam computed tomography (also known as ultrafast CT, cine CT)
- 75571 Computed tomography, heart, without contrast material, with quantitative evaluation of coronary calcium
- Agatston, A.S., Janowitz, W.R., Holdner, F.J., et al. Quantification of coronary artery calcium using ultrafast computed tomography. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2000; 15:827-32.
- Arad, Y., Spadaro, L.A., Goodman, K., et al. Predictive value of electron beam computed tomography of the coronary arteries. 19 month follow-up of 1173 asymptomatic subjects. Circulation. 1996; 93(11):1951-3.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Electron beam computed tomography. Technology Evaluation Center Assessments. 1994; 9(16):1-15.
- Budoff, M.J., Georgiou, D., Brody, A., et al. Ultrafast computed tomography as a diagnostic modality in the detection of coronary artery disease. Circulation. 1996; 93:898-904.
- Detrano, R.C. Coronary artery scanning using electron beam computed tomography. American Journal of Cardiac Imaging. 1996; 10(2):97-100.
- Secci, A., Wong, N., Tang, W., et al. Electron beam computed tomographic coronary calcium as a predictor of coronary events: comparison of two protocols. Circulation. 1997; 96(4):1122-9.
- Teng, W., Wong, N.D., Abrahamson, D., et al. Relation of electron beam computed tomography screening for coronary calcium to cardiovascular risk and disease: a review. Coronary Artery Disease. 1996; 7:383-9.
- Thompson, G.R., Forbat, S., Underwood, R. Electron-beam CT scanning for detection of coronary calcification and prediction of coronary heart disease. QJM. 1996; 89(8):565-70.
- Wexler, L., Brundage, B., Crouse, J., et al. Coronary artery calcification: pathophysiology, epidemiology, imaging methods, and clinical implications. A statement for health professionals from the American Heart Association Writing Group. Circulation. 1996; 94(5):1175-97.
- Wong, N.D., Detrano, R.C., Diamond, G., et al. Does coronary artery screening by electron beam computed tomography motivate potentially beneficial lifestyle behaviors? American Journal of Cardiology. 1996; 78:1220-3.
- O'Malley PG, Feurstein IM, Taylor AJ. Impact of electron beam tomography, with or without case management, on motivation, behavioral change, and cardiovascular risk profile: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2003 May 7;289(17):2215-23.
- Greenland P, Gaziano JM. Selecting Asymptomatic Patients for Coronary Computed Tomography for Electrocardiographic Exercise Testing. N Engl J Med 2003, Jul. 239;5.
- Tiechholz LE, Petrillo S, Larson AJ, Klig V. Quantitative assessment of atherosclerosis by electron beam tomography. Am J Cardiol. 2002 Dec 15;90(12):1416-9.
- Raggi P, Callister TQ, Cooil B, Russo DJ, Lippolis NJ, Patterson RE. Evaluation of chest pain in patients with low to intermediate pretest probability of coronary artery disease by electron beam computed tomography. Am J Cardiol. 2000 Feb. 1:85(3):283-8.
- ECRI. Computed Tomography for Predicting Coronary Artery Disease Risk. Plymouth Meeting (PA): ECRI Health Technology Assessment Information Service; 2004 Apr. 39 p. (Windows on medical technology; no. 107).
- Almeda FQ, Shah R, Senter S et al. Clinical and angiographic profile of patients with markedly elevated coronary calcium scores (>/=1000) detected by electron beam computed tomography. Cardiovasc Radiat Med. 2004 Jul-Sep; 5(3):109-12.
- Ratliff NB 3rd, Jorgensen CR, Gobel et al. Lack of usefulness of electron beam computed tomography for detecting coronary allograft vasculopathy. Am J Cardiol. 2004 Jul 15; 94(2):2002-6.
- ECRI. Computed Tomography for Cardiovascular Disease Screening. Plymouth Meeting (PA): ECRI Health Technology Information Service; 2006 Nov. (Health Technology Forecast).
- Budoff MJ, Achenbach S, Blumenthal RS et al. Assessment of coronary artery disease by cardiac computed tomography: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Committee on Cardiovascular Imaging and Intervention, Council on Cardiovascular Radiology and Intervention, and Committee on Cardiac Imaging, Council on Clinical Cardiology. Circulation 2006 Oct 17;114(16):1761-91.
- Greenland P, Bonow RO, Brundage BH, Budoff MJ, American College of Cardiology Foundation Clinical Expert . Consensus Task Force (ACCF/AHA Writing Committee to Update the 2000 Expert Consensus Document on Electron Beam Computed Tomography); Society ofAtherosclerosis Imaging and Prevention; Society of Cardiovascular ComputedTomography.Circulation. 2007 Jan 23;115(3):402-26. Epub 2007 Jan 12.
- Michos ED, Vasamreddy CR, Becker DM, Yanek LR, Moy TF, Fishman EK, Becker LC,Blumenthal RS. Women with a low Framingham risk score and a family history of premature coronary heart disease have a high prevalence of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis. Am Heart J. 2005 Dec;150(6):1276-81.
- Polonsky TS, McClelland RL, Jorgensen NW et al. Coronary Artery Calcium Score and Risk Classification for Coronary Heart Disease Prediction. JAMA. Apr 28, 2010; 303(16):1610-16.
- ECRI. Calcium scoring may be useful screening for chest pain in emergency departments. Plymout Meeting (PA): ECRI Health Technology Information Service; 2010 February 12. (Health Technology Forecast).
- Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). Health Care Guideline: Preventive Services for Adults. 17th edition. September 2011. Accessed November 2011.
- Ferket BS, Genders TS, Colkesen EB et al. Systematic review of guidelines on imaging of asymptomatic coronary artery disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Apr 12;57(15):1591-600.
- Rana JS, Gransar H, Wong ND et al. Comparative value of coronary artery calcium and multiple blood biomarkers for prognostication of cardiovascular events. Am J Cardiol. 2012 May 15;109(10):1449-53. Epub 2012 Mar 16.
- Sniderman AD, Thanassoulis G, lawler PR et al. Comparison of coronary calcium screening versus broad statin therapy for patients at intermediate cardiovascular risk. Am J Cardiol. 2012 May 9. [Epub ahead of print].
- Jacobs PC, Gondrie MJ, can der Graaf Y et al. Coronary artery calium can predict all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events on low-dose CT screening for lung cancer. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2012 Mar;198(3):505-11.
- Okwuosa TM, Greenland P, Burke GL et al. Prediction of coronary artery calcium progression in individuals with low Framingham Risk Score: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. 2012 Feb;5(2):144-53.
U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. October 2009. Using Nontraditional Risk Factors in Coronary Heart Disease Risk Assessment, Recommendation Statement.
2010 ACCF/AHA Guideline for Assessment of Cardiovascular Risk in Asymptomatic Adults. Circulation. 2010; 122:e636.
2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Assessment of Cardiovascular Risk. Journal of the American Cardiology j.jacc.2013.11.005. http://content.onlinejacc.org
UpToDate. Screening for Coronary Heart Disease. Frank G. Yanowitz, M.D.. Topic last updated October 12, 2012. www.uptodate.com
UpToDate. Diagnostic and Prognostic Implications of Coronary Artery Calcification Detected by Computed Tomography. Thomas C. Garber, M.D., PhD, FACC, FAHA, Christopher M. Kramer, M.D., FACC, FAHA. Topic last updated December 10, 2013. www.uptodate.com
Nishant R. Shah, M.D., Stephanie A. Coulter, M.D., An Evidence Based Guideline for Coronary Calcium Scoring in Asymptomatic Patients Without Coronary Heart Disease, Vol 39, Number 2, 2012.
Raimund Erbel, et al. Progression of Coronary Artery Calcification Seems to be Inevitable, but Predictable – Results of The Heinze Nixdorf Recall (HNR) Study. European Heart Journal. doi:10.1093/curheartj/ehu288
Date Reason Action
November 2010 Annual review Policy renewed
November 2011 Annual review Policy renewed
November 2012 Annual review Policy renewed
October 2013 Annual review Policy renewed
September 2014 Annual review Policy revised
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*Current Procedural Terminology © 2012 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.