Cardiac PET Scan: Gold Standard for Diagnosing Coronary Heart Disease
Why PET Scan?
- Imaging: Only PET Scans provide high-quality images with increased image contrast and spatial resolution compared to a SPECT Scan.
- Patient Health: Other modalities such as the widely used SPECT Scan can be degraded by the patient’s body size or space.
- Diagnosis: PET Scan identifies coronary artery blockages, and need for a stent or bypass surgery more accurately than all other imaging modalities.
- Safety: Radiation exposure is 80% less than the widely used SPECT Scan.
SPECT and PET MPI compared in one patient
Defect on stress SPECT MPI suggests coronary heart disease and requires further testing.
No defect on stress PET MPI indicates patient does not have coronary heart disease.
Who should get a PET Scan?
- Symptoms suggestive of coronary artery diseases such as chest pain, chest tightness, burning, shoulder pain, jaw pain, palpitations, shortness of breath or new ECG abnormalities, may require clarification by a PET Scan.
- Blockages in the coronary arteries revealed by an angiogram might require further assessment with a PET Scan to determine the best treatment option: medical management or revascularization with bypass surgery or stent placement.
- Bypass surgery or stent placement do not prevent progression of coronary artery disease. A PET Scan may be appropriate to monitor the success of the intervention.
- Heart attacks require treatment decisions. A PET Scan provides the most reliable assessment of damage and amount of heart muscle still at risk.
What is Coronary Heart Disease?
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), the leading cause of death in the US, results from narrowing of the coronary arteries, which provide the heart muscle with blood flow. The narrowing, called “Coronary Artery Disease” (CAD) is caused by cholesterol buildup in the wall of the arteries bulging into their lumen.
How is Coronary Heart Disease Diagnosed?
A physician will consider a patient’s symptoms, medical history, risk factors, findings on a physical examination, the results from an EKG and, in most cases, a stress test when diagnosing CHD.
What is a Nuclear Stress Test?
A nuclear stress test is a diagnostic category that both the PET and SPECT Scan fall under. A small dose of a radioactive material, called a tracer, is injected into a vein. The tracer accumulates in the heart muscle proportional to the blood flow. A camera, called a scanner, records the radioactivity emanating from the tracer in the heart muscle. A computer transforms the recordings of the scanner into images. The images are coded in shades of grey or color schemes which reflect the intensity of tracer uptake and thus blood flow in the different regions of the heart muscle relative to the area with the greatest tracer uptake.
Do Insurances Cover a PET Scan?
PET MPI for identification and risk assessment of coronary artery disease is covered by Medicare and many other insurance carriers.