Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) has been a significant advancement in scintigraphy, impacting many areas of diagnosis. It has begun to find use in ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) scintigraphy. However, its utility has been limited in the United States because of a lack of an optimal and Food and Drug Administration-approved SPECT ventilatory agent. Although SPECT V/Q can show more and smaller mismatches than planar studies, there is persistent debate regarding the clinical significance of these smaller pulmonary emboli (PE); they may be neither clinically significant nor require treatment. Available data suggest that planar V/Q, SPECT V/Q, and computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) have similar false-negative rates and thus have a similar impact on outcomes. In most cases, emergency department physicians are the first to encounter patients who may have PE, and they frequently use an imaging study as part of the evaluation. We discuss the rational for triaging patients to different imaging modalities with the use of chest radiography and the strengths and weaknesses of each modality. Detailed anatomy is an advantage of CTPA, breast radiation dose is reduced with scintigraphy, and imaging is quicker and more detailed with SPECT. We also review planar and SPECT V/Q and CTPA from the differing vantage points of diagnostic accuracy vs patient outcomes. Whatever modality their patients require, physicians can be confident that they are all similarly efficacious at diagnosing clinically relevant emboli.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging