Cardiac PET scans are used to check the health of the coronary arteries—that is, the vessels that supply blood to the heart. If the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked, the heart muscle can be starved of oxygen. This is known as coronary artery disease. A PET scan is capable of diagnosing coronary artery disease with a high degree of accuracy.
In addition, a PET scan can also help physicians choose the best treatment option. These options may include coronary artery bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty with stenting, or medication. Once a course of treatment is administered, a Rubidium-82 PET scan is often used to evaluate how well a given treatment is working for a patient.
Finally, PET scan may be used to check the condition of the heart muscle. If the heart muscle is not working properly because of temporary damage from lack of blood flow, the heart's health, and therefore function, may be restored by balloon angioplasty with stenting or bypass surgery. On the other hand, if the heart muscle has died because of a heart attack, the function of the heart muscle will not recover, even if blood flow is restored to the muscle. PET scanning is one of the best noninvasive methods to determine the cause of decreased heart function.