Tomographic imaging in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism: a comparison between V/Q lung scintigraphy in SPECT technique and multislice spiral CT.J Nucl Med 2004; 45(9):1501-8JN
Although ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) lung scintigraphy is a well-accepted and frequently performed procedure in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, there is growing controversy about its relevance, particularly due to the increasing competition between scintigraphy and CT. Even though comparative studies between both modalities have already been performed, their results were highly inconsistent. Remarkably, in most of those studies, conventional planar perfusion scans were compared with tomographic images acquired using state-of-the-art CT scanners-a study design that cannot give impartial results. Hence, the aim of our study was a balanced comparison between V/Q lung scintigraphy and CT angiography using advanced imaging techniques for both modalities.
A total of 83 patients with suspected pulmonary embolism were examined using V/Q lung scintigraphy in SPECT technique as well as 4-slice spiral CT. Ventilation scans were done using an ultrafine aerosol. Additionally, planar images in 8 views were extracted from the V/Q SPECT datasets. Two experienced referees assessed each of the 3 modalities. The final diagnosis was made at a consensus meeting while taking into account all of the imaging modalities, laboratory tests, clinical data, and evaluation of a follow-up period.
In the course of the consensus conference, pulmonary embolism was diagnosed in 37 of the 83 patients (44.6%). Compared with planar scintigraphy, SPECT raised the number of detectable defects at the segmental level by 12.8% (+11 defects; P = 0.401) and at the subsegmental level by 82.6% (+57 defects; P < 0.01). The sensitivity/specificity/accuracy of planar V/Q scintigraphy and V/Q SPECT was 0.76/0.85/0.81 and 0.97/0.91/0.94, respectively, compared with 0.86/0.98/0.93 for multislice CT.
SPECT and ultrafine aerosols are technical advancements that can substantially improve lung scintigraphy. Using advanced imaging techniques, V/Q scintigraphy and multislice spiral CT both yield an excellent and, in all aspects, comparable diagnostic accuracy, with CT leading in specificity while SPECT shows a superior sensitivity. Even though planar lung scintigraphy yields satisfactory results for a nontomographic modality, it does not compare with tomographic imaging.