One hundred and forty-nine patients with suspected ischaemic heart disease were evaluated by exercise thallium-201 myocardial scintigraphy (201Tl SMS), single lead exercise electrocardiography, and coronary arteriography. Myocardial distribution of tracer was assessed semi-quantitatively from digital 201Tl scintigrams and compared with tracer distribution in subjects with normal hearts. Fifty-two of 54 (96%) patients with normal coronary arteries had normal myocardial scintigrams whereas three patients had a positive ischaemic exercise electrocardiogram and were scan normal. Conversely, 36 of 95 (38%) patients with coronary artery disease had a positive ischaemic electrocardiogram compared with 94 of 95 (99%) patients who had a positive myocardial scintigram. Disease in specific coronary arteries could be deduced from the topography of myocardial tracer deficit. Disease was predicted correctly in 76 out of 80 (95%) of left anterior descending coronary stenoses, in 48 out of 64 (75%) of right coronary artery stenoses, and in 55 out of 64 (85%) of left circumflex coronary artery stenosis, despite the presence of infarcted myocardium in other territories. Similarly, single vessel disease was predicted correctly in 14 out of 17 (82%) patients and multiple vessel disease in 64 out of 77 (83%) patients. 201Tl SMS with segmental quantitative analysis is a highly sensitive and specific technique in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease and may be useful screening procedure to select patients for further investigation, particularly those with evidence of life-threatening severe left coronary artery disease.
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