Despite recent decreases in mortality, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. The search for an accurate, non-invasive, and lower risk technique for diagnosing coronary artery disease continues to challenge researchers globally.
Scientists from the University Hospital of Zurich's Nuclear Cardiology Department presented the first evaluation of a promising new method for the assessment of ischemic heart disease at the Society of Nuclear Medicine's 51st Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.
The new technique makes use of the latest generation of hybrid scanners. The PET/CT scanner combines information from positron emission tomography (PET), which traces the flow of blood through the coronary arteries and into muscle tissue, with a three-dimensional X-ray study (the computed tomography, or CT, part). The resulting fused images provide a precise picture of how the heart looks and functions.
The study involved 25 patients with coronary artery disease previously documented by coronary angiogram. The new PET/CT technology was used to diagnose the same 25 patients non-invasively. PET/CT was determined to be reliable and effective at diagnosing coronary artery disease when compared to the coronary angiogram and more accurate than CT alone. This procedure may potentially relieve patients and the medical community from the financial and physical burden of invasive diagnostic methods.
The implications of this new technology for evaluating patients with coronary artery disease are still being assessed. According to Dr. Mehdi Namdar, one of the authors of the study, "In the medical community, we are always looking for new ways to approach old problems. Any time you can avoid invasive procedures without sacrificing accuracy or increasing risk, you're doing a great service to the patient. In the case of the combined PET/CT scanner, we have found a very accurate method of diagnosing potential heart risks that is much easier on the patient."