To examine the relationship of pericardial adipose tissue (PAT) with coronary artery calcification in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

Design and Methods:

The baseline cohort comprised 6,814 Caucasian (38%), African-American (28%), Chinese American (12%), and Hispanic (22%) adults aged 45-84, without known clinical cardiovascular disease. Cardiac CT was used to measure PAT (cm3) and calcification (Agatston score). We examined cross-sectional associations of PAT with the presence (score >0) and severity (continuous score if >0) of calcification using prevalence ratio (PR) (n = 6,672) and linear regression (n = 3,362), respectively. Main models were adjusted for age, age2, gender, race/ethnicity, field site, smoking, physical activity, alcohol, and education.


PAT volume (adjusted for age, height, weight, and site) was greatest in Chinese males, whereas Black males had less PAT than all but Black females. PAT was associated with presence [PR per standard deviation (SD): 1.06 (95% CI: 1.04, 1.08)] and severity [difference in log Agatston score per SD: 0.15 (0.09, 0.21)] of calcification, but neither association varied by race/ethnicity. Adjustment for generalized adiposity attenuated but did not eliminate the associations. With further adjustment for traditional risk factors and inflammatory markers, only the association with severity remained statistically significant [PR: 1.02 (1.00, 1.04); difference: 0.10 (0.03, 0.17)]. Heterogeneity by sex was observed for the presence of calcification (PR in men: 1.04; in women: 1.08; P for interaction <0.0001).


PAT was associated with the presence and severity of coronary artery calcification in this cohort, but neither association varied by race/ethnicity.