Cardio-Vascular & Thoracic Imaging- Diagnostics

What is cardio-vascular and thoracic imaging?

The cardio-vascular imaging uses the echocardiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET) technologies to capture the images of the heart and vascular system in non-invasive manner. These techniques provide exceptional 2-, 3- and 4-dimensional (2D, 3D and 4D) visualization of complex cardiovascular anatomy and pathology. This helps to facilitate the treatment plan which may include surgical or endovascular procedures.

Cardio-thoracic imaging involves the diagnosis of disorders of the airways, lungs, mediastinum, myocardium, pleura and chest wall, and coronary arteries. It involves a chest radiography, CT scan and MRI.

A radiologist and a cardiologist are the medical specialists who will be involved in cardio-vascular and thoracic imaging.

Chest x-rays:

Chest x-rays are generally useful in the beginning of the diagnosis. They provide a gross view of atrial and ventricular size as well as the shape and pulmonary vasculature.


It is also known as cardiac ultrasound and is used to evaluate heart size, systolic and diastolic function, wall thickness, pericardial diseases, and valvular function. It also provides information about any ischemia and infarction. This technique uses ultrasound waves to capture an image of the heart, the heart valves, and the great vessels. A transducer is placed on chest over the heart. The transducer sends ultrasound waves through the chest toward the heart. A computer captures the images by interpreting the sound waves as they bounce back to the transducer. A 3D echocardiography creates a 3D image of the heart.

Computed tomography (CT) scan:

This technique uses X-rays to produce 2D cross-sectional images, of the body's blood vessels, bones, and soft tissues. CT scanners use a motorized X-ray source which rotates around the body in order to take detailed images. The captured images can be stacked to create a 3D model of the specific organ.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):

It is used to evaluate blood flow, perfusion, cardiac anatomy, ventricular function, myocardial mass, and myocardial viability.  This technique uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the tissues and organs. Generally, most of the MRI machines are tube-shaped, large magnets. Patient is asked to lie down inside the MRI machine and the magnetic field is used for temporary realignment of the hydrogen atoms in the body.  Now the radio waves cause the aligned hydrogen atoms to generate faint signals that help to create MRI images.

Positron emission tomography (PET):

This technique uses radioactive nuclides (such as carbon-11 (11C) carbon dioxide, oxygen-15 (15O) water, and nitrogen-13 (13N) ammonia) which are used to trace the amount of blood flow entering a specific region.



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About the Author:

Dr. Anand Lakhkar is a physician scientist from India. He completed his basic medical education from India and his postgraduate training in pharmacology from the United States. He has a MS degree in pharmacology from New York Medical College, a MS degree in Cancer/Neuro Pharmacology from Georgetown University and a PhD in Pharmacology from New York Medical College where he was the recipient of the Graduate Faculty Council Award for academic and research excellence.  His research area of expertise is in pulmonary hypertension, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular pharmacology.  He has multiple publications in international peer-reviewed journals and has presented his research at at prestigious conferences.