Heart Attack

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the heart become blocked. The part of the heart muscle starved for oxygen may die or become permanently damaged.

Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that forms a blockage in the coronary arteries. Blood clots are often the result of coronary artery disease (CAD), also called atherosclerosis, in which hardened fat deposits called plaques build up inside blood vessels. The plaque may cause fissures, or tiny tears, causing blood clots to form. A piece of plaque may also break loose and lodge in a small blood vessel, blocking blood flow.

How does molecular imaging help people who have experienced a heart attack?

Following a heart attack, heart function is assessed using either echocardiography or nuclear imaging.

Molecular and functional imaging procedures assess heart function and provide valuable information on specific biochemical and structural changes in heart tissue including:

  • the extent of scarring
  • degree of coronary artery disease
  • left ventricle remodeling (changes in the size, shape, and function of the heart after injury)
  • the development of congestive heart failure.

Images and information provided by myocardial perfusion imaging, nuclear functional heart studies and other molecular imaging procedures help physicians:

  • assess the potential for sudden cardiac death and other cardiac events in patients who have suffered a heart attack or who have chronic heart failure
  • select patients for automatic internal cardiac defibrillators (AICDs)


Plaque detection Using FDG PET and PETCT