Lower diagnostic accuracy of thallium-201 SPECT myocardial perfusion imaging in women: an effect of smaller chamber size

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1996 Nov 1;28(5):1214-9. doi: 10.1016/S0735-1097(96)00304-X.


Objectives: We attempted to formally compare the diagnostic accuracy of thallium-201 single-photon emission computed tomographic (SPECT) myocardial perfusion imaging in men and women and the effect of chamber size on accuracy.

Background: The diagnostic accuracy of conventional exercise testing has been shown to be lower in women. Less is known about the relative accuracy of perfusion imaging. Because of smaller body size, women have a smaller heart size than men, a factor that may reduce accuracy.

Methods: We identified 323 patients undergoing thallium-201 SPECT myocardial perfusion imaging who either had < 5% probability of coronary artery disease (CAD) by Bayesian analysis or who underwent cardiac catheterization within 60 days of stress testing. Patients with documented history of infarction, coronary artery bypass grafting, pathologic Q waves on the electrocardiogram, left bundle branch block or nonischemic cardiomyopathy were not included. We performed strict quantitative analysis, and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were generated and the area under the curve was calculated for men and women. A size index was generated from the number of short-axis slices and average radius of each slice, and the group was classified as having a large or a small chamber size. The ROC areas of men and women with a large and a small chamber size were then compared.

Results: Diagnostic accuracy was lower in women than in men (ROC are 0.82 vs. 0.93, p < 0.05) despite similar values for peak heart rate and rate-pressure product and similar severity of CAD. There was a greater difference in accuracy between patients with a large versus a small chamber size (ROC area 0.94 vs. 0.73, p < 0.01) despite similar levels of exercise and severity of CAD. When we compared men and women in groups stratified by chamber size, we could not detect a significant difference between ROC area values of men and women (large: 0.94 men, 0.93 women, p = 0.77, power to detect difference in area of 0.15 = 91%; small: 0.79 men, 0.72 women, p = 0.58, power to detect difference in area of 0.15 = 35%).

Conclusions: The diagnostic accuracy of thallium SPECT myocardial perfusion imaging is lower in women than in men. Most of the difference appears to be due to smaller left ventricular chamber size in women, although a small residual gender effect in smaller heart sizes cannot be entirely excluded. It is proposed that the most likely cause for this difference is the relatively greater effect of imaging blurring on smaller hearts.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Area Under Curve
  • Coronary Circulation*
  • Coronary Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Heart / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • ROC Curve
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Thallium Radioisotopes*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*


  • Thallium Radioisotopes