Comparison of modalities to diagnose coronary artery disease

Semin Nucl Med. 1994 Oct;24(4):286-310. doi: 10.1016/s0001-2998(05)80020-0.


The purpose of this review is to compare several modalities available for detection of coronary artery disease (CAD). We compare the clinical history, rest/exercise electrocardiogram (ECG), rest/stress left ventricular (LV) function by radionuclide or echocardiographic methods, myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI) by single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) or positron emission tomography (PET), contrast coronary angiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), spectroscopy (MRS) and angiography (MRA), and ultrafast cine computed tomography (UFCT) to assess LV function, myocardial perfusion, and coronary calcification. We compare the modalities by answering six questions: (1) Does the modality provide unique clinical information? (2) What is the observer error? (3) What are sensitivities and specificities to detect CAD? (4) What patient selection criteria should be applied for each modality? (5) What incremental benefit is obtained from one modality versus another modality? and (6) Where do the modalities fit in the overall scheme of diagnostic testing for CAD? PET MPI appears to be the best noninvasive test for CAD, followed by SPECT thallium-201 and then dobutamine echocardiography. MRA and UFCT may soon play a larger role because they visualize the arteries. Contrast coronary angiography remains the gold standard despite its limitations. Exercise ECG is the least accurate test. The choice of tests critically depends on patient selection--based on clinical history, age, gender, and risk factors to estimate the pretest, clinical probability of CAD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis*
  • Coronary Disease / economics
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Methods
  • Observer Variation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity