Altered myocardial perfusion in patients with angina pectoris or silent ischemia during exercise as assessed by quantitative thallium-201 single-photon emission computed tomography
Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
The extent of abnormally perfused myocardium was compared in patients with and without chest pain during treadmill exercise from a large, relatively low-risk consecutive patient population (n = 356) referred for quantitative thallium-201 single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). All patients had concurrent coronary angiography. Patients were excluded if they had prior coronary angioplasty or bypass surgery. Tomographic images were assessed visually and from computer-generated polar maps. Chest pain during exercise was as frequent in patients with normal coronary arteries (12%) as in those with significant (greater than 50% stenosis) coronary artery disease (CAD) (14%). In the 219 patients with significant CAD, silent ischemia was fivefold more common than symptomatic ischemia (83% versus 17%, p = 0.0001). However, there were no differences in the extent, severity, or distribution of coronary stenoses in patients with silent or symptomatic ischemia. Our major observation was that the extent of quantified SPECT perfusion defects was nearly identical in patients with (20.9 +/- 15.9%) and without (20.5 +/- 15.6%) exertional chest pain. The sensitivity for detecting the presence of CAD was significantly improved with quantitative SPECT compared with stress electrocardiography (87% versus 65%, p = 0.0001). Although scintigraphic and electrocardiographic evidence of exercise-induced ischemia were comparable in patients with chest pain (67% versus 73%, respectively; p = NS), SPECT was superior to stress electrocardiography for detecting silent myocardial ischemia (52% versus 35%, respectively; p = 0.01). The majority of patients in this study with CAD who developed ischemia during exercise testing were asymptomatic, although they exhibited an angiographic profile and extent of abnormally perfused myocardium similar to those of patients with symptomatic ischemia. The prognostic significance of quantified perfusion defects detected by SPECT remains to be assessed.