Do false positive thallium-201 scans lead to unnecessary catheterization? outcome of patients with perfusion defects on quantitative planar thallium-201 scintigraphy

Rene L. Desmarais, Sanjiv Kaul, Denny D. Watson, George A. Beller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Objectives. We postulated that artifactually abnormal thallium-201 scans are well identified at the time of initial clinical interpretation by experienced readers and do not lead to unnecessary coronary angiography. Background. Exercise thallium-201 scintigraphy employing quantitative imaging techniques has yielded sensitivity and specificity values of 80% to 90%. There are image artifacts, such as breast shadows, and variants of normal that, if not correctly identified, can lead to a high false positive rate for detection of coronary artery disease. Methods. Data from 338 consecutive patients with one or more focal thallium-201 defects on quantitative planar Images were reviewed. All patients had undergone symptom-limited exercise scintigraphy and were classified as having either artifactual or nonartifactual thallium-201 defects after review of clinical reports. Results. Of the 265 patients with defects judged to be nonartifactual on clinical readings, 167 underwent coronary angiography, which demonstrated significant coronary artery disease (≥50% stenosis) in 161 (96%) and normal findings in 6. Four of the latter six had documented prior myocardial infarction. The remaining 73 patients (85% female) had thallium-201 defects deemed to be artifactual on clinical readings, chiefly as a result of breast (66%) and diaphragmatic (8%) attenuation or variants of normal (26%). Only 4 (5%) of the 73 patients underwent subsequent coronary angiography; none had coronary artery disease. One had aortic stenosis and two had variant angina. Follow-up (mean 20 ± 2 months) of the 69 patients in this group who did not undergo coronary angiography revealed no deaths and one nonfatal non-Q wave myocardial infarction. Conclusions. Artifactual defects on quantitative planar thallium-201 scintigraphy are well recognized by experienced interpreters and do not result in a high false positive rate leading to unnecessary cardiac catheferization. The incidence of coronary artery disease is high in patients with thallium-201 defects judged to be nonartifactual, and many patients with perfusion defects and angiographically normal coronary arteries have organic heart disease.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1058-1063
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
    Volume21
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 1993

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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