The Changing Face of Nuclear Cardiology: Guiding Cardiovascular Care Toward Molecular Medicine

J Nucl Med. 2020 Jul;61(7):951-961. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.119.240440. Epub 2020 Apr 17.


Radionuclide imaging of myocardial perfusion, function, and viability has been established for decades and remains a robust, evidence-based and broadly available means for clinical workup and therapeutic guidance in ischemic heart disease. Yet, powerful alternative modalities have emerged for this purpose, and their growth has resulted in increasing competition. But the potential of the tracer principle goes beyond the assessment of physiology and function, toward the interrogation of biology and molecular pathways. This is a unique selling point of radionuclide imaging, which has been underrecognized in cardiovascular medicine until recently. Now, molecular imaging methods for the detection of myocardial infiltration, device infection, and cardiovascular inflammation are successfully gaining clinical acceptance. This is further strengthened by the symbiotic quest of cardiac imaging and therapy for an increasing implementation of molecule-targeted procedures, in which specific therapeutic interventions require specific diagnostic guidance toward the most suitable candidates. This review will summarize the current advent of clinical cardiovascular molecular imaging and highlight its transformative contribution to the evolution of cardiovascular therapy beyond mechanical interventions and broad blockbuster medication, toward a future of novel, individualized molecule-targeted and molecular imaging-guided therapies.

Keywords: cardiovascular infection; infiltrative cardiomyopathy; inflammation; molecular imaging; nuclear cardiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Molecular Medicine*
  • Nuclear Medicine*