Cardiac positron emission tomography imaging

Semin Nucl Med. 2005 Jan;35(1):17-36. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2004.09.002.


Cardiac positron emission tomography (PET) imaging has advanced from primarily a research tool to a practical, high-performance clinical imaging modality. The widespread availability of state-of-the-art PET gamma cameras, the commercial availability of perfusion and viability PET imaging tracers, reimbursement for PET perfusion and viability procedures by government and private health insurance plans, and the availability of computer software for image display of perfusion, wall motion, and viability images have all been a key to cardiac PET imaging becoming a routine clinical tool. Although myocardial perfusion PET imaging is an option for all patients requiring stress perfusion imaging, there are identifiable patient groups difficult to image with conventional single-photon emission computed tomography imaging that are particularly likely to benefit from PET imaging, such as obese patients, women, patients with previous nondiagnostic tests, and patients with poor left ventricular function attributable to coronary artery disease considered for revascularization. Myocardial PET perfusion imaging with rubidium-82 is noteworthy for high efficiency, rapid throughput, and in a high-volume setting, low operational costs. PET metabolic viability imaging continues to be a noninvasive standard for diagnosis of viability imaging. Cardiac PET imaging has been shown to be cost-effective. The potential of routine quantification of resting and stress blood flow and coronary flow reserve in response to pharmacologic and cold-pressor stress offers tantalizing possibilities of enhancing the power of PET myocardial perfusion imaging. This can be achieved by providing assurance of stress quality control, in enhancing diagnosis and risk stratification in patients with coronary artery disease, and expanding diagnostic imaging into the realm of detection of early coronary artery disease and endothelial dysfunction subject to risk factor modification. Combined PET and x-ray computed tomography imaging (PET-CT) results in enhanced patient throughput and efficiency. The combination of multislice computed tomography scanners with PET opens possibilities of adding coronary calcium scoring and noninvasive coronary angiography to myocardial perfusion imaging and quantification. Evaluation of the clinical role of these creative new possibilities warrants investigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Angiography / methods
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Coronary Vessels / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / trends
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Radioisotopes*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Subtraction Technique


  • Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals