Nuclear cardiology refers to non-invasive tests that use a small amount of a radioactive substance to evaluate heart disease. These tests include SPECT and PET scans. The substance is injected into a vein and then an imaging machine is used to scan and create images of the hearing based on the flow of the radioactive substance. This type of test is called a myocardial perfusion and is commonly used to understand the effects of heart disease.
Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (SPECT & PET)
Nuclear cardiology tests are combined with a workout or exercise to help increase the flow of blood throughout the body. This exercise is usually in the form of walking or running on a treadmill for a short period of time. If a patient is unable to exercise, a chemical agent may be used to provide similar effects on the heart.
Myocardial perfusion studies are most common to identify sections of the heart that are not getting enough blood. It also shows cardiologists the location of scar tissue as a result of a cardiac event like a heart attack. These tests help with the following:
- Identify areas of the heart that are low in blood flow
- Localization of the coronary artery with limited blood flow
- Information about the heart’s pumping ability
- Identify patients at risk of heart attack
- Identify patients who qualify for invasive procedures like angiography, angioplasty, and heart surgery
The Difference Between a PET and SPECT Test
A Cardiac PET scan is an imaging technique that produces a superior image of the heart in patients who require it. It is non-invasive and provides vital images of the blood supply to the heart and metabolic function. Essentially, it can expose blockages, scar tissue, and function.
A SPECT Scan is an imaging technique that is used to measure the uptake of the heart. It helps cardiologists identify if the heart muscle is not getting enough blood flow.