Journal of Nuclear Cardiology

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 142–152

Use of cardiac radionuclide imaging to identify patients at risk for arrhythmic sudden cardiac death

Review Article


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) accounts for about ½ of all cardiovascular deaths, in most cases the result of a lethal ventricular arrhythmia. Patients considered at risk are often treated with an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), but current criteria for device use, based largely on left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), leads to many patients receiving ICDs that they do not use, and many others not receiving ICDs but who suffer SCD. Thus, better methods of identifying patients at risk for SCD are needed, and radionuclide imaging offers much potential. Recent work has focused on imaging of cardiac autonomic innervation. 123I-mIBG, a norepinephrine analog, is the tracer most studied, and a variety of positron emission tomographic tracers are also under investigation. Radionuclide autonomic imaging may identify at-risk patients with ischemic coronary artery disease, particularly following myocardial infarction and in the setting of hibernating myocardium. Most studies have been done in the setting of congestive heart failure (CHF), with a recent large multicenter study of patients with advanced disease, typically at high risk of SCD, showing that 123I-mIBG can identify a low risk subgroup with an extremely low incidence of lethal ventricular arrhythmias and cardiac death, therefore, perhaps not requiring an ICD. Cardiac neuronal imaging has been shown to be better predictive of lethal arrhythmias/cardiac death than LVEF and New York Heart Association class, as well as various ECG parameters. Autonomic imaging will likely play an important role in the advancement of cardiac molecular imaging.


Sudden cardiac death cardiac autonomic imaging 123I-mIBG 

Copyright information

© American Society of Nuclear Cardiology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nuclear MedicineMontefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  2. 2.Division of Cardiology/Department of MedicineMontefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA

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