CT of Coronary Artery Disease


U. Joseph Schoepf, MD ; Christoph R. Becker, MD ; Bernd M. Ohnesorge, PhD ; E. Kent Yucel, MD

1 From the Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis St, Boston, MA 02115 (U.J.S., E.K.Y.); Institute of Clinical Radiology, University of Munich, Germany (C.R.B.); and Siemens Medical Solutions, Division CT, Forchheim, Germany (B.M.O.). Received April 29, 2003; revision requested July 10; revision received July 29; accepted August 25; updated September 17. U.J.S. and E.K.Y. supported in part by research grants from Berlex Laboratories, Wayne, NJ.

The socioeconomic importance of heart disease provides considerable motivation for development of radiologic tools for noninvasive imaging of the coronary arteries. Current computed tomographic (CT) techniques combine high speed and spatial resolution with sophisticated electrocardiographic synchronization and robustness of use. Application of these modalities for evaluation of coronary artery disease is a topic of active current research. Coronary artery calcium measurements with different CT techniques have been used for determining the risk of coronary events, but the exact role of this marker for cardiac risk stratification remains unclear pending results of population-based studies. Contrast material–enhanced CT coronary angiography has become an established clinical indication for some scenarios (eg, coronary artery anomalies, bypass patency, surgical planning). With current technology, the accuracy of CT coronary angiography for detection of coronary artery stenoses appears promising enough to warrant pursuit of this application, but sensitivity is still not high enough for routine diagnostic needs. The high negative predictive value of a normal CT coronary angiogram, however, may be useful for reliable exclusion of coronary artery stenosis. The cross-sectional nature of CT may allow noninvasive assessment of the coronary artery wall. Use of contrast-enhanced CT coronary angiography for detection, characterization, and quantification of atherosclerotic changes and total disease burden in coronary arteries as a potential tool for cardiac risk stratification is currently being investigated.