Background: In patients with coronary artery disease, coronary angiography is performed for assessment of epicardial coronary artery stenoses. In addition, myocardial scintigraphy is commonly used to evaluate regional myocardial perfusion. These two-dimensional (2D) imaging modalities are typically reviewed through a subjective, visual observation by a physician. Even though on the analysis of 2D display scintigraphic myocardial perfusion segments are arbitrarily assigned to three major coronary artery systems, the standard myocardial distribution territories of the coronary tree correspond only in 50-60% of patients. On the other hand, the mental integration of both 2D images of coronary angiography and myocardial scintigraphy does not allow an accurate assignment of particular myocardial perfusion regions to the corresponding vessels. To achieve an objective assignment of each vessel segment of the coronary artery tree to the corresponding myocardial regions, we have developed a 3D 'fusion image' technique and applied it to patients with coronary artery disease. The morphological data (coronary angiography) and perfusion data (myocardial scintigraphy) are displayed in a 3D format, and these two 3D data sets are merged into one 3D image.
Results: Seventy-eight patients with coronary artery disease were studied with this new 3D fusion technique. Of 162 significant coronary lesions, 120 (74%) showed good coincidence with regional myocardial perfusion abnormality on 3D fusion image. No regional myocardial perfusion abnormality was found in 44 (26%) lesions. Furthermore, the 3D fusion image revealed 24 ischemic myocardial regions that could not be related to angiographically significant coronary artery lesions.
Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrate that our newly developed 3D fusion technique is useful for an accurate assignment of coronary vessel segments to the corresponding myocardial perfusion regions, and suggest that it may be helpful to improve the interpretative and decision-making process in the treatment of patients with coronary artery disease.