BACKGROUND: Although observational evidence has suggested that the measurement of coronary artery calcium (CAC) may improve risk stratification for cardiovascular events and thus help guide the use of lipid-lowering therapy, this contention has not been evaluated within the context of a randomized trial. The Value of Imaging in Enhancing the Wellness of Your Heart (VIEW) trial is proposed as a randomized study in participants at low intermediate risk of future coronary heart disease (CHD) events to evaluate whether CAC testing leads to improved patient outcomes. PURPOSE: To describe the challenges encountered in designing a prototypical screening trial and to examine the impact of uncertainty on power. METHODS: The VIEW trial was designed as an effectiveness clinical trial to examine the benefit of CAC testing to guide therapy on a primary outcome consisting of a composite of nonfatal myocardial infarction, probable or definite angina with revascularization, resuscitated cardiac arrest, nonfatal stroke (not transient ischemic attack (TIA)), CHD death, stroke death, other atherosclerotic death, or other cardiovascular disease (CVD) death. Many critical choices were faced in designing the trial, including (1) the choice of primary outcome, (2) the choice of therapy, (3) the target population with corresponding ethical issues, (4) specifications of assumptions for sample size calculations, and (5) impact of uncertainty in these assumptions on power/sample size determination. RESULTS: We have proposed a sample size of 30,000 (800 events), which provides 92.7% power. Alternatively, sample sizes of 20,228 (539 events), 23,138 (617 events), and 27,078 (722 events) provide 80%, 85%, and 90% power. We have also allowed for uncertainty in our assumptions by computing average power integrated over specified prior distributions. This relaxation of specificity indicates a reduction in power, dropping to 89.9% (95% confidence interval (CI): 89.8-89.9) for a sample size of 30,000. Samples sizes of 20,228, 23,138, and 27,078 provide power of 78.0% (77.9-78.0), 82.5% (82.5-82.6), and 87.2% (87.2-87.3), respectively. LIMITATIONS: These power estimates are dependent on form and parameters of the prior distributions. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the pressing need for a randomized trial to evaluate the utility of CAC testing, conduct of such a trial requires recruiting a large patient population, making efficiency of critical importance. The large sample size is primarily due to targeting a study population at relatively low risk of a CVD event. Our calculations also illustrate the importance of formally considering uncertainty in power calculations of large trials as standard power calculations may tend to overestimate power.