Incidental cardiac findings on computed tomography imaging of the thorax

BMC Res Notes. 2010 Dec 3;3:326. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-3-326.


Background: Investigation of pulmonary pathology with computed tomography also allows visualisation of the heart and major vessels. We sought to explore whether clinically relevant cardiac pathology could be identified on computed tomography pulmonary angiograms (CTPA) requested for the exclusion of pulmonary embolism (PE). 100 consecutive CT contrast-enhanced pulmonary angiograms carried out for exclusion of PE at a single centre were assessed retrospectively by two cardiologists.

Findings: Evidence of PE was reported in 5% of scans. Incidental cardiac findings included: aortic wall calcification (54%), coronary calcification (46%), cardiomegaly (41%), atrial dilatation (18%), mitral annulus calcification (15%), right ventricular dilatation (11%), aortic dilatation (8%) and right ventricular thrombus (1%). Apart from 3 (3%) reports describing cardiomegaly, no other cardiac findings were described in radiologists' reports. Other reported pulmonary abnormalities included: lung nodules (14%), lobar collapse/consolidation (8%), pleural effusion (2%), lobar collapse/consolidation (8%), emphysema (6%) and pleural calcification (4%).

Conclusions: CTPAs requested for the exclusion of PE have a high yield of cardiac abnormalities. Although these abnormalities may not have implications for acute clinical management, they may, nevertheless, be important in long-term care.