Background: Quantitative cardiac contractile function assessment is the primary indicator of disease progression and therapeutic efficacy in small animals. Operator dependency is a major challenge with commonly used echocardiography. Simultaneous assessment of cardiac perfusion and function in nuclear scans would reduce burden on the animal and facilitate longitudinal studies. We evaluated the accuracy of contractile function measurements obtained from electrocardiogram-gated nuclear perfusion imaging compared with anatomic imaging.
Methods and results: In healthy C57Bl/6N mice (n = 11), 99mTc-sestamibi SPECT and 13N-ammonia PET underestimated left ventricular volumes (23 to 28%, P = 0.02) compared to matched anatomic images, though ejection fraction (LVEF) was comparable (%, SPECT: 73 ± 8 vs CMR: 72 ± 6, P = 0.1). At 1 week after myocardial infarction (n = 13), LV volumes were significantly lower in perfusion images compared to CMR and contrast CT (P = 0.003), and LVEF was modestly overestimated (%, SPECT: 37 ± 8, vs CMR: 27 ± 7, P = 0.003). Nuclear images exhibited good intra- and inter-reader agreement. Perfusion SPECT accurately calculated infarct size compared to histology (r = 0.95, P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Cardiac function can be calculated by gated nuclear perfusion imaging in healthy mice. After infarction, perfusion imaging overestimates LVEF, which should be considered for comparison to other modalities. Combined functional and infarct size analysis may optimize imaging protocols and reduce anaesthesia duration for longitudinal studies.
Keywords: PET; SPECT; cardiac function; small animal imaging.