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A Better Way to Image Coronary Artery Disease

Myocardial contrast echocardiography offers a glimpse into health outcomes of patients with coronary artery disease.

Mary Bates, Contributor
Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Coronary artery disease affects 16.5 million Americans, leading to chest pain, shortness of breath and sometimes even heart attack.

In a new study in the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography, researchers compare an established method of evaluating patients with coronary artery disease with a newer method.

Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is a well-established method to detect heart attack and insufficient blood flow in patients with coronary artery disease. Recently, myocardial contrast echocardiography (MCE), which uses gas-filled microbubbles administered intravenously, has been shown to detect these features of the disease as well.

Unlike other methods that measure myocardial blood flow, MCE has excellent spatial and temporal resolution, which allows it to assess both blood volume and blood flow velocity. SPECT has lower spatial resolution and no temporal resolution, meaning it cannot assess blood velocity.

To assess how closely SPECT and MCE are associated with clinical outcomes in patients with coronary artery disease, researchers followed more than 250 patients who underwent both imaging methods for an average period of 80 months.

They found that abnormal results on MCE, but not on SPECT, were associated with clinical outcomes like heart attack or death. The results support the routine use of MCE in the long-term assessment of patients with known or suspected coronary artery disease.

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