JNC: Cardiac imaging needs standardized software analysis

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Medical professionals should use the same software for comparing and analyzing diagnostic heart images taken from different time periods and laboratories to ensure accuracy, according to a collaborative study published in the January-February issue of the J ournal of Nuclear Cardiology.

Physicians and researchers at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Ore., and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, analyzed images done on 328 heart patients at Sacred Heart as part of an effort to standardize cardiac-image analyses to improve both diagnostics and patient care.

A lack of important consistency is evident from analyses now done with three widely used software packages, said Mathews Fish, MD, medical director of nuclear cardiology at the Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute at Sacred Heart. Inconsistencies can occur, for example, he said, when comparing images done over time or when results on a patient come from different labs.

Fish is part of a collaborative research project with Cedars-Sinai that includes a recently awarded grant from the National Institutes of Health for the development of an automated high-performance system for analyzing cardiac SPECT imaging. The study is believed to be the first head-to-head comparison of the commercially available software used in such cardiac-related diagnostics.

Cardiac SPECT is performed in conjunction with stress testing to compare blood flow to the heart muscle when patients are at rest or stressed. The images are analyzed using computer software. The new study found significant differences in diagnostic performance and quantification of abnormalities in software packages being used for cardiac SPECT imaging, according to researchers.

"This study shows the tangible benefits of the Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute's research partnership with the University of Oregon," Fish said. "Such research performed locally in our own institutions greatly enhances the quality of medical outcomes and supports the use of the most appropriate and effective technology for the care of patients."