Nuclear Cardiology – Myocardial Perfusion

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia and is caused by a slow build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscles. Known as atherosclerosis, when these fatty plaques become significant enough to reduce blood flow to the heart muscles you could get angina (chest pain) or have a heart attack. Plaque build up in arteries begins when people are young and could be well advanced by middle age.

A Myocardial Perfusion Scan images the blood supply (perfusion) to the heart muscle using a gamma camera. The blood supply is made visible to the camera by the introduction of a small amount of radioactive tracer (radiopharmaceutical or MIBI) injected into an arm vein. Occasionally an alternative tracer called Thallium is used. Depending on the exact heart condition in question, the procedure may be performed at rest, with the heart under stress or, most commonly, both.

Myocardial scans give information useful in diagnosing and managing conditions such as coronary artery disease, dead tissue resulting from a lack of blood supply (infarcts) and diseases of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).

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