3D fusion key to better heart imaging

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Using advanced, fused molecular imaging techniques to create what researchers called a “coronary tree” provides clinicians with an improved means by which to diagnose heart disease, according to research presented at SNM 2007 this week in Washington, D.C.

The study results showed that physicians can use “technologically advanced fusion of anatomic and physiological 3D color displays to significantly improve the accuracy of diagnosing heart disease," said Cesar A. Santana, assistant professor of radiology at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga. "In addition, these computer fusion and rendering techniques could be used in the future with molecular imaging agents to detect and guide the treatment associated with coronary artery disease," he added.

Santana said that his team "took images of the coronary arteries from one study—called a computed tomography (CT) angiography—and superimposed them on top of images of heart muscle.”

"The heart muscle was color coded to the blood flow brought in by the coronaries into the muscle. That blood flow information was obtained from a nuclear imaging scan.”

The study's results were obtained using CT to view the coronary arteries; positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to view the blood flow to the heart muscle; and a computer technique to combine and display these two types of information.

"There still is considerable more work needed to improve the accuracy of the superimposition of the coronary tree onto the heart muscle and to improve the rendering method of displaying the images so that the right information is conveyed to the physician," said Santana.

Josef Machac, SNM's scientific program committee cardiovascular vice chair put the study in perspective. "This work illustrates the value of a co-registered, combined 3D display of blood flow together with CT angiography imaging data,” he said.

"This information—taken together—demonstrates superior performance, compared to each modality alone. This has been speculated on, but now, we have empirical evidence that it is true," added Machac.