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Inaccuracies in Cardiac PET-CT Scanning

Current PET-CT scanners with standard commercial software designed to provide images of the heart are falsely indicating coronary artery disease in as many as 40 percent of patients .

Lead author K. Lance Gould, M.D., professor in the Division of Cardiology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, said he discovered the abnormalities upon his initial use of cardiac PET-CT scanners in the Weatherhead P.E.T. Center For Preventing and Reversing Atherosclerosis at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

Positron emission tomography, or PET, is nuclear cardiac imaging for optimally assessing blood flow in the heart. When paired with CT, or computed tomography, the PET-CT scanners should be an accurate, noninvasive tool for detecting or assessing severity of heart disease, said Gould, executive director of the Weatherhead P.E.T. Center. However, he said, an erroneous basic concept in the software functions make the PET-CT scanners prone to generating false-positive results.

The technology showed false-positive results in 40 percent of the 259 patients who participated in Goulds study. In 23 percent of those patients, it showed severe false abnormalities suggesting heart disease, which Gould said could have resulted in unwarranted, emergency heart procedures if he had not run additional tests to confirm his suspicions of the inaccurate results.

We found errors that are inherent in the technology as now used. Failure of physicians to recognize and correct those errors can have a profound impact on patients lives, said Gould, the Martin Bucksbaum Distinguished University Chair. These falsely positive results could lead to unnecessary procedures for nonexistent heart problems or for problems that could be treated without surgery.

The commercial software does not account for movement in the lungs and heart while the patient is breathing during the test, Gould said, and as a result, the PET and CT im
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