Exercise thallium-201 myocardial imaging in left main coronary artery disease: Sensitive but not specific

Terry Rehn, Lawrence S.C. Griffith, Stephen C. Achuff, Ian K. Bailey, Bernadine H. Bulkley, Robert Burow, Bertram Pitt, Lewis C. Becker

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To determine the usefulness of thallium-201 scintigraphy for identifying left main coronary artery disease, the results of scintigraphy at rest and during exercise were compared in 24 patients with 50 percent or greater narrowing of the left main coronary artery and 80 patients with 50 percent or greater narrowing of one or more of the major coronary arteries but without left main coronary involvement. By segmental analysis of the scintigrams, perfusion defects were assigned to the left anterior descending, left circumflex or right coronary artery, singly or in combination, and the pattern of simultaneous left anterior descending and circumflex arterial defects was used to identify left main coronary artery disease. Of the 24 patients with left main coronary artery disease, 22 (92 percent) had abnormal exercise scintigrams. Despite this high sensitivity, the pattern of perfusion defects was not specific; the "left main pattern" was found in 3 patients (13 percent) with left main coronary artery disease but also in 3 (33 percent) of 9 patients with combined left anterior descending and left circumflex arterial disease, 4 (19 percent) of 21 patients with three vessel disease and 3 (6 percent) of 50 patients with one or two vessel disease but excluding the group with left anterior descending plus left circumflex arterial disease. The pattern of perfusion defects in the patients with left main coronary artery disease was determined by the location and severity of narrowings in the coronary arteries downstream from the left main arterial lesion. Concomitant lesions in other arteries were found in all patients with left main coronary disease (one vessel in 1 patient, two vessels in 7 patients and three vessels in 16). For this reason, it is unlikely that even with improvements in radiopharmaceutical agents and imaging techniques, myocardial perfusion scintigraphy will be sufficiently specific for definitive identification of left main coronary artery disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-223
Number of pages7
JournalThe American journal of cardiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1981


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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