PET/CT imaging of the heart allows the study and quantification of various aspects of heart tissue function. Dramatic advances in PET/CT scanners and specialized software have helped develop an important role for PET/CT imaging in cardiology for diagnosing patients, describing disease and developing treatment strategy.
PET/CT imaging provides a way to assess the severity of heart disease and measure its impact on heart function. Clinical studies show an important role for PET/CT in screening for coronary heart disease, assessing flow rates and flow reserves, and distinguishing viable from nonviable heart tissue.
Two areas of clinical application have emerged:
Myocardial Perfusion: PET/CT is used by physicians to reveal whether or not a patient has coronary artery disease (CAD), which is caused by accumulation of plaques within the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. PET/CT imaging with ammonia N-13 tracer provides an accurate non-invasive assessment of the coronary arteries and is the most accurate test to reveal CAD and impaired blood flow. Images of the myocardial blood flow are taken before and after pharmacologic stress to determine if maximum blood flow is restricted by narrowing of the coronary arteries.
Myocardial Viability: PET/CT imaging with FDG is used by physicians to determine the viability of heart muscle and if it has been permanently damaged due to decreased or absent blood flow. If heart tissue has died because of a restricted blood flow, heart attack or stroke, the heart cannot function normally. Determining the amount of damage and the percentage of the heart affected will help physicians decide on appropriate treatment, including whether revascularization, bypass surgery or transplant is the most appropriate treatment.