Assessment of peripheral arterial vascular disease with radionuclide techniques

Semin Nucl Med. 2001 Apr;31(2):129-42. doi: 10.1053/snuc.2001.21267.


Various radioisotopic imaging techniques for noninvasive detection of vessel stenosis and for functional investigation of reduced blood flow and follow-up have been developed during the last decade in peripheral vascular disease (PVD), with the aim of replacing invasive techniques and complementing standardized methods. Radionuclide assessment of PVD is divided into 2 major groups: imaging of perfusion and metabolic investigations. The measurement of arterial blood flow and muscle perfusion is intended to show the morphology, to evaluate the functional consequences of PVD, and to quantify the latter. The application of radiolabeled tracers was developed as a noninvasive alternative to angiography in morphologic imaging. Treadmill testing has been used to assess the functional effects of reduced blood flow in PVD where the onset of pain indicates the stage of disease, but the results can be confused by other symptoms. Scintigraphic measurement of muscle perfusion should detect insufficient nutritional blood flow in peripheral muscle and thus have a higher specificity for PVD than treadmill testing alone. Although there are very promising theoretical and experimental data in animals, the clinical use of radionuclide investigations is limited by different technical problems, such as methodologic differentiation between skin and muscle perfusion, the lack of controlled and prospective studies, and incomplete correlation with other standardized routine techniques. Among the great number of radioisotopic metabolic imaging techniques, only radiolabeled platelets and lipoproteins, to some extent, have shown a limited potential clinical use. Some other approaches seem to have a high potential from a theoretical point of view. They are limited, however, by a great number of problems. Correlation with sonographic or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings may identify a potential metabolic value. Correlation with angiography reflecting the extent of the disease makes no sense. So far with PVD, neither radioisotopic perfusion studies nor metabolic imaging techniques are able to achieve a level of routine application or wider meaningful interpretation of the clinical condition of a specific patient. Competing techniques are easier to perform, less expensive, faster, more widely available, and do not carry the radiation burden. Positron emission tomography is still in its early stages of application, with great theoretical potential but at a high price. A great deal of work is still required to transform in vitro and experimental experience into more meaningful routine radioisotopic investigations in patients with PVD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / physiopathology
  • Blood Platelets / physiology
  • Fibrinogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Indium Radioisotopes
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism
  • Monocytes / physiology
  • Muscles / blood supply
  • Muscles / diagnostic imaging
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Organotechnetium Compounds
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Porphyrins / metabolism
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Thallium Radioisotopes
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Immunoglobulins
  • Indium Radioisotopes
  • Lipoproteins
  • Organotechnetium Compounds
  • Peptides
  • Porphyrins
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Thallium Radioisotopes
  • Fibrinogen