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Nuclear cardiology: state of the art
  1. Rebecca Schofield1,
  2. Leon Menezes2,
  3. Stephen Richard Underwood3
  1. 1 Department of Cardiology, North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, UK
  2. 2 Institute of Nuclear Medicine, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  3. 3 National Heart and Lung Institute, Royal Brompton Hospital, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Stephen Richard Underwood, National Heart and Lung Institute, Royal Brompton Hospital, Imperial College London, London, UK; srunderwood{at}


Radionuclide imaging remains an essential component of modern cardiology. There is overlap with the information from other imaging techniques, but no technique is static and new developments have expanded its role. This review focuses on ischaemic heart disease, heart failure, infection and inflammation. Radiopharmaceutical development includes the wider availability of positron emission tomography (PET) tracers such as rubidium-82, which allows myocardial perfusion to be quantified in absolute terms. Compared with alternative techniques, myocardial perfusion scintigraphy PET and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) have the advantages of being widely applicable using exercise or pharmacological stress, full coverage of the myocardium and a measure of ischaemic burden, which helps to triage patients between medical therapy and revascularisation. Disadvantages include the availability of expertise in some cardiac centres and the lack of simple SPECT quantification, meaning that global abnormalities can be underestimated. In patients with heart failure, despite the findings of the STICH (Surgical Treatment for Ischemic Heart Failure) trial, there are still data to support the assessment of myocardial hibernation in predicting when abolition of ischaemia might lead to improvement in ventricular function. Imaging of sympathetic innervation is well validated, but simpler markers of prognosis mean that it has not been widely adopted. There are insufficient data to support its use in predicting the need for implanted devices, but non-randomised studies are promising. Other areas where radionuclide imaging is uniquely valuable are detection and monitoring of endocarditis, device infection, myocardial inflammation in sarcoidosis, myocarditis and so on, and reliable detection of deposition in suspected transthyretin-related amyloidosis.

  • nuclear cardiac imaging
  • cardiac imaging and diagnostics
  • advanced cardiac imaging

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  • Contributors All authors have contributed equally to the writing and approval of this review article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.