Background: Obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States, and little is known about the characteristics of the morbidly obese population (body mass index [BMI] > or = 40 kg/m2) undergoing stress myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI).
Methods and results: We retrospectively reviewed all consecutive morbidly obese patients without known coronary artery disease presenting for a clinically indicated technetium 99m (Tc-99m) gated stress single photon emission computed tomography imaging study over a 42-month period. Studies were analyzed for image quality, for the contribution of attenuation correction to image interpretation, and for the hemodynamic response to pharmacologic stress. In patients who subsequently had cardiac catheterization, the results were compared with those from the initial MPI study, and the Social Security Death Index and hospital medical records were searched to the assess survival rate in the entire cohort. A total of 433 patients were identified with a mean BMI of 47.3 +/- 8 kg/m2 and a mean Tc-99m stress dose of 35.6 +/- 5.4 mCi. Image quality was good in 61% of the patients, adequate in 37%, and poor in 2%. It was found to be dependent on the stressor used (better with exercise) but did not correlate with increasing weight or BMI. Attenuation correction was used in 95% of the studies reviewed and was helpful for image interpretation in 60%. The heart rate response to dipyridamole and adenosine was more pronounced and the blood pressure response to dipyridamole was less pronounced in morbidly obese patients compared with nonobese control patients. In the 43 patients who underwent catheterization, stress MPI had a sensitivity of 95% and negative predictive value of 80%. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis at 1 year showed a significant difference in survival rate of 98.3% for normal MPI studies and 94.0% for abnormal MPI studies (P = .02).
Conclusion: Diagnostic-quality single photon emission computed tomography imaging is feasible in the majority (98%) of morbidly obese patients with the use of a dual-head camera, attenuation correction, and high stress Tc-99m tracer doses. Exercise stress was associated with better image quality. The prognostic value of a normal MPI study in this population appears to be less favorable than in non-morbidly obese patients.