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Pet scanning better for heart disease diagnosis, management

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning rather than other types of imaging as the first tool to diagnose heart-vessel blockages is more accurate, less invasive and saves dollars, a study by University at Buffalo researchers has shown. The research findings were presented today (March 8, 2005) at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session in Orlando, Fla.

Results of the study provide a rationale for PET scanning to become the initial diagnostic test for assessing a patient's risk of heart attack, say lead researchers Michael Merhige, M.D., UB clinical associate professor of nuclear medicine, and Joseph Oliverio, UB clinical instructor of nuclear medicine who is a certified nuclear medicine technologist. Both also are affiliated with the Heart Center of Niagara at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

"Because PET scanning is more accurate and provides a clearer picture of the state of the heart, it could decrease the use of angiograms and bypass surgery by more than 50 percent if used as the first-line test with patients," said Merhige. "All too often it is the last test.

"Currently cardiologists conduct a range of tests, including stress tests and an imaging procedure called single photon emission computed topography, or SPECT," Merhige said. "False readings from SPECT often put patients through angiograms that turn out to be normal. PET avoids most false positives, as well as false negatives, because the images have higher resolution."

An angiogram is a moderately invasive procedure that involves threading a catheter through a vein in the leg and injecting a special dye visible on an X-ray into the circulatory system near the heart. Blood flow then can be tracked and blockages detected by observing the dispersion of the dye. An angiogram costs around $4,800, the researchers calculated.

PET currently is used clinically primarily for cancer patients. A Web site advocating the use of PET
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Contact: Lois Baker
ljbaker@buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 x1417
University at Buffalo
8-Mar-2005


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