High-Tech Imaging Might Advance Heart Disease Diagnosis

Two technologies assess cardiac function and arterial health at once, developers say

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MONDAY, June 4, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Software that combines information from two imaging technologies -- single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and cardiac computed tomography (CT) angiography -- can boost the diagnosis of heart disease, U.S. researchers say.

SPECT provides three-dimensional images of blood flow to the heart muscle, while cardiac CT angiography provides detailed images of coronary arteries.

"By combining the physiological (or functional) images of the blood flow to the heart muscle at stress and at rest with the high-resolution anatomical depiction of coronary arteries and their blockages, we can determine the diagnosis of coronary artery disease more accurately," Piotr Slomka, a research scientist with the Artificial Intelligence in Medicine Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said in a prepared statement.

"These scans are obtained at different times -- and even at different locations -- but our computer software puts the information together in 3-D. This synergistic integration allows simultaneous analysis of the heart muscle blood flow with a highly accurate image of coronary arteries and their blockages. It eliminates the limitations of imaging with either SPECT or CT alone," Slomka said.

While this imaging combination could be done with specialized hybrid scanners, Slomka said "our software approach is more flexible since the combination is required in only a subset of cases. We can use the best possible CT angiography equipment and SPECT at much lower cost than the dedicated combined scanner. In any case, the hybrid scanners would still require software techniques similar to ours due to the heart motion."

Slomka was scheduled to present the research over the weekend at the annual meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine, in Washington, D.C.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about imaging techniques.

SOURCE: Society of Nuclear Medicine, news release, June 3, 2007

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