Assessment of myocardial viability by dobutamine echocardiography, positron emission tomography and thallium-201 SPECT: correlation with histopathology in explanted hearts

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1998 Nov 15;32(6):1701-8. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(98)00436-7.


Objectives: We examined the relationship among viability assessment by dobutamine echocardiography (DE), positron emission tomography (PET) and thallium-201 single-photon emission computed tomography (TI-SPECT) to the degree of fibrosis.

Background: DE, PET and TI-SPECT have been shown to be sensitive in identifying viability of asynergic myocardium. However, PET and TI-SPECT indicated viability in a significant percentage of segments without dobutamine response or functional improvement after revascularization.

Methods: Twelve patients with coronary artery disease and severely reduced left ventricular function (EF 14.5+/-5.2%) were studied with DE prior to cardiac transplantation: 5 had additional PET and 7 had TI-SPECT studies. Results of the three techniques were compared to histologic findings of the explanted hearts.

Results: Segments with >75% viable myocytes by histology were determined to be viable in 78%, 89% and 87% by DE, PET and TI-SPECT; those with 50-75% viable myocytes in 71%, 50% and 87%, respectively. Segments with 25-50% viable myocytes showed response to dobutamine in only 15%, but were viable in 60% by PET and 82% by TI-SPECT. Segments with <25% viable myocytes responded to dobutamine in 19%; however, PET and TI-SPECT demonstrated viability in 33% and 38%, respectively. Discrepant segments without dobutamine response but viability by PET and SPECT had significantly more viable myocytes by pathology than did those classified in agreement to be nonviable but had significantly less viable myocytes than those classified in agreement to be viable (p < .001).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that contractile reserve as evidenced by a positive dobutamine response requires at least 50% viable myocytes in a given segment whereas scintigraphic methods also identify segments with less viable myocytes. Thus, the methods may provide complementary information: Nuclear techniques appear to be highly sensitive for the detection of myocardial viability, and negative tests make it highly unlikely that a significant number of viable myocytes are present in a given segment. Conversely, dobutamine echo may be particularly useful for predicting recovery of systolic function after revascularization.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis*
  • Coronary Disease / pathology
  • Coronary Disease / surgery
  • Dobutamine
  • Echocardiography*
  • Heart / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Radiography
  • Thallium Radioisotopes
  • Tissue Survival* / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Thallium Radioisotopes
  • Dobutamine