PET Scans for Cardiology
Cardiac PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is an advanced noninvasive method of studying the heart that makes use of tracer drugs that emit positively charged particles called positrons. Like X-rays, positrons are visible using a special imaging device called a gamma camera. PET scans provide unique information on the metabolic functioning, rather than the structure, of the heart and other organs.
The PET center at Mount Sinai offers two types of cardiac PET studies. One test, using a tracer called Rubidium-82 (Rb-82), is a stress test that measures blood circulation in the arteries of the heart. The second, using a sugar-like substance called F-18 FDG, is used to distinguish areas of healthy cardiac tissue from damaged tissue, such as may be found following a heart attack. The F-18 FDG study is performed if weakening in the overall function of the heart has been detected by another test, such as the Rubidium-82 test.
PET stress tests with Rubidium-82 are used to check the health of the coronary arteries for complete or partial blockages, which can reduce blood flow to heart muscle and lead to the heart muscle becoming deprived of oxygen. This condition is called coronary artery disease. Symptoms can include chest pain and shortness of breath. With coronary artery disease there is an increase in the possibility of a myocardial infarction, or heart attack. PET cardiac scans with Rb-82 are more accurate than other cardiac stress tests such as Thallium-201 SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) in the detection of heart disease and provide enhanced quantification.
Because of this increase in accuracy, invasive catheterizations can often be avoided in those patients who do not need it.
Knowing about these obstructions can help the physician decide the best course of further diagnostic tests and treatment, such as catheterization, when necessary.