Cardiac PET Produces Clearer Heart Images

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One of the most advanced diagnostic tools in the world is offered at the Allegheny Health Networks’ Cardiovascular Institute at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH).

Cardiac PET (positron emission tomography) is non-invasive imaging to evaluate coronary heart disease. The test is faster and more sensitive, which reduces the radiation exposure for the patient, about one-tenth of the dose for standard test,” said Dr. Poornima.

Indu Poornima, MD, cardiologist and Medical Director of Nuclear Cardiology at AGH, described how physicians use Cardiac PET to get a detailed and functional map of the heart.  

“We can see if there are any blockages in coronary arteries impeding blood flow to the heart muscle,” Dr. Poornima said. “Or if blood flow is slower than it should be, due to blood vessels that don’t dilate otherwise called as microvascular disease.”

After a patient has a heart attack, she said, “we can determine the degree of damage to the heart, which affects treatment decisions. Is there enough healthy heart tissue to support a coronary bypass?” Doctors can also assess sarcoidosis, an inflammation of the heart muscles.

Cardiologists start with non-invasive stress tests to assess the need for more complex procedures, like a cardiac catheterization.

It is particularly helpful for patients who are:

  • Obese, with a BMI over 40
  • Women with recurrent heart issues
  • Getting annual stress tests prior to kidney transplant
  • Younger than typical heart patients

AGH is the only hospital in the area that has practiced patient-centered nuclear imaging for the last five years. “With greater sensitivity, we can be quicker, decreasing cumulative lifetime radiation dosages with less stress, and lower overall cost, said Dr. Poornima.

Heart patients may ask their physicians for more information or call 412.DOCTORS (362.8677).