V/Q SPECT and computed tomographic pulmonary angiography

Semin Nucl Med. 2010 Nov;40(6):426-41. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2010.08.001.


Planar ventilation and perfusion (V/Q) scintigraphy has been largely displaced by computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA) in recent years for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism (PE). This change can be attributed to multiple studies that demonstrate CTPA has a reasonable sensitivity and good prognostic value in negative cases, associated with the ability to deliver few indeterminate results and provide an alternate diagnosis in a significant number of patients. However, the technique has significant limitations. The Prospective Investigation of Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis II (PIOPED II) study has shown a sensitivity of 83%, which is not optimal. However, CT technology has greatly progressed since this time, and therefore it is likely that this number has improved. The PIOPED II study has also shown that there may be a problem in positive or negative predictive value when the imaging results are discordant with the clinical probability. Additional concerns include allergies, contrast nephropathy associated with the use of intravenous contrast in patients with impaired creatinine clearance, suboptimal results in pregnant women, and high radiation exposure. In recent years, V/Q single-photon emission computed tomography has emerged as a mature technique for the diagnosis of PE and has been shown to be clearly superior to planar V/Q. The technique has excellent sensitivity for PE and is not associated with most of the limitations of CTPA, although it has its own set of limitations in patients with very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or with a severely abnormal chest x-ray. V/Q single-photon emission computed tomography can be used as the initial modality for PE diagnosis in a wide variety of situations although CTPA remains invaluable in specific scenarios.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiography / adverse effects
  • Angiography / methods*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lung / blood supply
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / adverse effects
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Ventilation-Perfusion Ratio*