There are many different imaging tools for the heart, but when a physician is looking at blood flow, myocardial perfusion imaging is the best. The heart has many functions. You may have a strong heartbeat, but poor blood flow, or you could have good blood flow but an issue with electrical signals. When it comes to the heart, there are a lot of things that need to be examined. Since there are several functions, there are also several tests that can be done. If the doctor needs to examine your heart because they suspect blood flow problems, myocardial perfusion imaging is the best method of choice.
Blood flow through the heart is crucial for heart health. The process never changes. Understanding blood flow will also help you understand how the blood gets oxygen and the possible problems that can cause blood flow issues. If you look at a diagram of the blood vessels in the body, you will notice that some vessels are blue, and others are red. The blood means there is no oxygen. The red blood means there is oxygen. The red blood is going out of the heart to supply the rest of the body with the oxygenated blood it needs. The blue blood is returning to the heart to get more oxygen. That is something you probably already know, but what you may not know is how the blood gets oxygen, and the specific course blood takes.
The heart has four total chambers: left atrium, right atrium, left ventricle, right ventricle. There are valves which separate the chambers as well. The valves keep the blood from flowing backward and helps the blood flow forward. To start out, deoxygenated blood is poured into the right atrium. The tricuspid valve opens allowing for blood to flow to the right ventricle. Once it enters, the valves close. The blood then flows from the heart through the pulmonary artery to the lungs where it receives oxygen. The oxygenated blood is returned to the heart through the pulmonary veins. It returns to the left atrium this time. The mitral valve opens allowing the flow of blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle. The mitral valve closes and blood is transported to the aorta where it is then sent to the rest of the body.
Blood Flow Problems
With all these steps, it is possible for something to go wrong causing problems with blood flow. A common problem results from issues with the heart valves. Sometimes the valves do not close completely or do not open all the way. These things can cause blood to flow backward and limit the amount of blood being sent through the heart and to the body.
Myocardial Perfusion Imaging
Myocardial perfusion imaging is a non-invasive imaging test that shows blood flow through the heart. The images reveal if there are areas of the heart that are not receiving enough blood flow. There are two different techniques for Myocardial Perfusion Imaging. The first technique is single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). The second technique is positron emission tomography (PET). SPECT uses radioactive tracers to project an image to the heart. PET scans are very similar. A SPECT scan examines blood flow through the heart at rest and during exercise. PET scans show whether or not blood flow is reduced because of problems with the arteries. Both are effective; they just reveal different things.
There are many benefits to myocardial perfusion imaging. The images help reveal whether or not the arteries are blocked as well as how many arteries are blocked. Through this exam, the doctor is also able to see if you have had heart attacks in the past. If the MPI is abnormal, you may need more tests. Although the MPI reveals a lot, it does not always show why the arteries are clogged. The next step may be a coronary angiogram. In other instances, you may need surgery. Many people require bypass surgery and coronary stents. Although valve issues may be the reason why blood is not flowing properly, clogged arteries is another. This test prevents future cardiovascular problems. If the doctor can diagnose blood flow problems early, then you can avoid heart attacks and congestive heart failure.
The heart is an important organ in the body. If the heart does not function properly, the whole body suffers. Myocardial perfusion imaging is a preventative test that helps diagnose blood flow issues. Being diagnosed early, can help save your life. After the test, the doctor will start you on medication and can help with the lifestyle changes you need to make. You do not have to continue through life with poor blood flow. Ignoring your problems will eventually lead to heart disease and possibly congestive heart failure. Take control now before it is too late.
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