Cardiac Imaging in the Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease

Ashvarya Mangla, Estefania Oliveros, Kim Allan Williams, Dinesh K Kalra
Current Problems in Cardiology 2017, 42 (10): 316-366
Coronary artery disease (CAD) continues to be a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Although invasive coronary angiography has previously been the gold standard in establishing the diagnosis of CAD, there is a growing shift to more appropriately use the cardiac catheterization laboratory to perform interventional procedures once a diagnosis of CAD has been established by noninvasive imaging modalities rather than using it primarily as a diagnostic facility to confirm or refute CAD. With ongoing technological advancements, noninvasive imaging plays a pre-eminent role in not only diagnosing CAD but also informing the choice of appropriate therapies, establishing prognosis, all while containing costs and providing value-based care. Multiple imaging modalities are available to evaluate patients suspected of having coronary ischemia, such as stress electrocardiography, stress echocardiography, single-photon emission computed tomography myocardial perfusion imaging, positron emission tomography, coronary computed tomography (CT) angiography, and magnetic resonance imaging. These imaging modalities can variably provide functional and anatomical delineation of coronary stenoses and help guide appropriate therapy. This review will discuss their advantages and limitations and their usage in the diagnostic pathway for patients with CAD. We also discuss newer technologies such as CT fractional flow reserve, CT angiography with perfusion, whole-heart coronary magnetic resonance angiography with perfusion, which can provide both anatomical as well as functional information in the same test, thus obviating the need for multiple diagnostic tests to obtain a comprehensive assessment of both, plaque burden and downstream ischemia. Recognizing that clinicians have a multitude of tests to choose from, we provide an underpinning of the principles of ischemia detection by these various modalities, focusing on anatomy vs physiology, the database justifying their use, their prognostic capabilities and lastly, their appropriate and judicious use in this era of patient-centered, cost-effective imaging.

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