Myocardial blood flow was evaluated in 31 subjects with not only visual but also, for the first time, circumferential profile analysis of rubidium 82 (82Rb) images acquired with positron emission tomography. Fifteen were control subjects and 16 subjects had significant coronary artery disease, defined as 50% or greater diameter stenosis in a major coronary artery or a first-order branch. Simultaneous 82Rb images at three myocardial levels were obtained before and after intravenous dipyridamole plus handgrip stress. In patients with significant coronary artery disease, visual analysis correctly identified significant disease in 26 (76%) of 34 arteries and its absence in 12 (86%) of 14 normal arteries. According to circumferential profile analysis, these numbers were 91% and 86%, respectively. Thus circumferential analysis of 82Rb images, obtained before and after intravenous dipyridamole plus handgrip stress, yielded improved sensitivity and comparable specificity compared with visual analysis.