Every day radiologists save lives by capturing images of the heart and its associated vasculature. Not only can radiology detect and help diagnose cardiac conditions, it is used to help guide treatment and long-term management. Some of the cardiac conditions radiologists are able to diagnose using cardiovascular imaging include:
• Heart valve disease
• Aortic aneurysm
• Mitral valve prolapse
• Malformed coronary arteries
• Chronic heart disease
• Cardiac tumors
• Aortic stenosis
In some cases, radiology can also be used to detect heart disease before it produces clinical signs and symptoms. Following are some of the ways radiology is used to assist in cardiology cases.
What Chest X-Rays Tell Radiologists
Radiologists like Dr. David H. Ring, Jr. are sometimes able to gain valuable information about the heart from traditional chest x-rays. These images show heart size and shape, as well as outlines of the blood vessels in the chest and lungs. Abnormal heart shape, or enlargement of the heart due to conditions like heart failure may be evident on x-rays, and enlargement of pulmonary arteries may be evident, a condition which can lead to thickening of the heart’s right ventricle.
Heart Structure as Seen by Computed Tomography
Radiologists with extensive experience in cardiovascular imaging are able to detect certain structural problems with the heart and the pericardium, as well as the major blood vessels using helical computed tomography (CT). Usually, radiopaque dye or contrast agent is injected into the patient’s vein to improve contrast, and certain types of cardiac CT imaging can be used by radiologists to detect calcium deposits in the coronary arteries.
CT Angiography and Heart Disease
CT angiography creates three-dimensional images of major arteries, and can help doctors detect narrowing of arteries that supply the major organs. CT angiography can also be used to detect tears in major arteries, as well as clots that have lodged in the small arteries of the lungs. CT angiography can be done very quickly, and it is not as invasive a procedure as conventional angiography.
MRI and Cardiology
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a highly sophisticated procedure that is used for diagnosis of complex disorders of the heart that are present at birth. MRI is able to differentiate between normal and abnormal tissue and can be timed to match specific phases of the heartbeat for clearer images. Other problems that may be detected by MRI include aneurysms in the aorta, and narrowing of arteries that supply the heart.
Radionuclide Imaging and the Heart
Nuclear medicine, as practiced by radiologists like Dr. Charles C. Cole, use certain types of heart images to help diagnose chest pain with unknown causes. Radionuclide imaging can also be used to determine how narrowing of coronary arteries affects the blood supply to and function of the heart. After heart bypass surgery, radionuclide imaging may be used to help determine a patient’s prognosis. Different radioactive tracers are used depending on the suspected condition.
When Is Positron Emission Tomography Used in Cardiology?
Positron emission tomography, or PET, is used to find out how much blood reaches different parts of the heart muscle and how different structures of the heart metabolize things like glucose. For example, PET can be used to determine which parts of the heart use more sugar than normal, indicating inadequate blood supply. PET scans create clearer images than other radionuclide imaging types, but it is quite expensive and not available everywhere.
Cardiovascular Imaging at SteleRAD
Radiologists are able to use medical imaging to detect and identify many types of heart disease – which are leading causes of death all over the world. Knowing which type of cardiac imaging to use for which patients, and knowing how to obtain the highest quality images with the lowest possible exposure to ionizing radiation allows radiologists to collect vital information quickly while minimizing risk to patients.
Owned and operated by Board-certified radiologists, SteleRAD brings South Florida decades of combined experience in all radiology subspecialties including cardiac radiology. SteleRAD provides exceptional service to hospitals, medical imaging centers, and practices throughout South Florida. If you would like to find out more, call 954-358-5250 or contact SteleRAD online.