PET/CT imaging benefits heart patients

Photo: Patient Patricia Smith is the center of attention before her PET/CT scan with Beth Nemec, RN, (left) and nuclear medicine technologists Michelle Andersen and Tom Schadl of Bryan Health.

Bryan Heart is the only cardiac program in Nebraska offering PET/CT imaging to assess heart function and detect abnormalities that indicate blockages in coronary arteries.

Cardiologist Clyde Meckel, MD, says PET/CT — short for positron emission tomography and computerized axial tomography — combines two types of scans to provide an overall examination that’s superior to all others.

“This three-dimensional imaging is very effective for stress testing to identify possible heart tissue damage which may have been caused by blockages in the vessels,” he notes. “And it’s wonderful for patients, who benefit from the value of having PET, as well as CT scans, done during the same visit to Bryan.”

Photo: Dr. Clyde Meckel and other Bryan Heart cardiologists are the only physicians in Nebraska using PET/CT scans to diagnose heart disease.

New technology here
A cardiac PET scan is a new tool for assessing heart disease, although similar equipment is used elsewhere at Bryan Health for diagnosing cancer. The exam takes only about 45 minutes, and PET images showing the heart under stress are quickly available to compare to CT images made of the heart at rest.

More sensitive test
“It’s much more sensitive than our traditional cardiac stress testing, known as SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) nuclear perfusion imaging,” according to Dr. Meckel. He adds that PET/CT is extremely effective in determining whether parts of the heart are working properly.

Who benefits
PET/CT eliminates “shadowing artifacts” — false positives that in SPECT scans may look like blockages. Typical causes of shadowing are soft tissue, especially in obese patients or women who have large breasts, or if the patient’s diaphragm is high in the chest. So, PET/CT imaging especially benefits those who have those physical characteristics. PET/CT also helps doctors decide whether patients who may have multi-vessel coronary artery disease should have a procedure to clear their arteries.

How effective is it?
Dr. Meckel points out that in just its first month of operation, PET/CT overruled five cases where earlier SPECT exams suggested those patients should have heart catheterizations to treat suspected heart conditions.

Ready for the future
Cardiologists Mathue Baker, MD, Matthew Johnson, MD, Joseph Kummer, MD, Keith Miller, MD, Todd Tessendorf, MD, and Ryan Whitney, MD, have joined Dr. Meckel in interpreting the scans at Bryan Medical Center. “Bryan Heart has a heritage of innovation — integrating this new technology is another example,” says Dr. Meckel.

To learn more about the benefits of PET/CT, ask your physician, or contact Bryan Heart at 402-483-3333.