Role of cardiac multidetector computed tomography in the exclusion of ischemic etiology in heart failure patients

Rev Port Cardiol. 2014 Oct;33(10):629-36. doi: 10.1016/j.repc.2014.02.028. Epub 2014 Oct 1.
[Article in English, Portuguese]


Introduction and aims: Differentiation of ischemic from non-ischemic etiology in heart failure (HF) patients has both therapeutic and prognostic implications. One possible approach to this differentiation is direct visualization of the coronary tree. Multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) has emerged as an alternative to invasive coronary angiography (ICA), but its performance and additional clinical value are still not well validated in patients with left ventricular (LV) dysfunction. We aimed to assess the value of coronary MDCT angiography (CTA) in the exclusion of ischemic etiology in HF patients and to determine whether the Agatston calcium score could be used as a gatekeeper for CTA in this context.

Methods: We retrospectively selected symptomatic HF patients with LV ejection fraction (LVEF) <50%, as assessed by echocardiography, referred for CTA between April 2006 and May 2013. Patients with previously known CAD or valvular disease were excluded. The performance of MDCT in the detection of coronary artery disease (CAD) and/or exclusion of an ischemic etiology for HF was studied. Obstructive CAD was defined as the presence of ≥50% luminal stenosis in at least one epicardial coronary artery as assessed by CTA and was assumed in patients with an Agatston coronary artery calcium (CAC) score >400. In patients referred for ICA, an ischemic etiology was assumed in the presence of ≥75% stenosis in two or more epicardial vessels or ≥75% stenosis in the left main or proximal left anterior descending artery.

Results: During this period 100 patients (mean age 57.3±10.5 years, 64% men) with HF and systolic dysfunction were referred for MDCT to exclude CAD. Median effective radiation dose was 4.8 mSv (interquartile range 5.8 mSv). Mean LVEF was 35±7.7% (range 20-48%) and median CAC score was 13 (interquartile range 212). Seven patients were in atrial fibrillation. Almost half of the patients (40%) had no CAC and none of these had significant stenosis on CTA. In an additional group of 33 patients CTA was able to confidently exclude obstructive CAD. Twenty-seven patients were classified as positive for CAD (16 due to CAC >400 and 11 with ≥50% stenosis) and were associated with lower LVEF (p=0.004). Of these, 21 patients subsequently underwent ICA: obstructive CAD was confirmed in nine and only six had criteria for ischemic cardiomyopathy.

Conclusion: In our HF population, MDCT was able to exclude an ischemic etiology in 73% of cases in a single test. According to our results the Agatston calcium score may serve as a gatekeeper for CTA in patients with HF, with a calcium score of zero confidently excluding an ischemic etiology.

Keywords: Agatston calcium score; Angio-TC Coronária; Cardiomiopatia isquémica; Computed tomography angiography; Coronary heart disease; Doença arterial coronária; Heart failure; Insuficiência cardíaca; Ischemic cardiomyopathy; Multidetector computed tomography; Score cálcio Agatston; Tomografia computorizada multicortes.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Imaging Techniques*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multidetector Computed Tomography*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / complications*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies