Chest Pain Imaging Guidance

If it seemed like coronary imaging folks were more excited than usual last week, it’s because the AHA/ACC’s long-awaited chest pain guidelines just set the stage for a lot more imaging.

The Guidelines – The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) released their first clinical guidelines for the assessment and diagnosis of chest pain, outlining a range of new standards, processes, and pathways, while giving coronary imaging a central diagnostic role.

Front-Line Coronary CTA – The new guidelines made coronary CTA a front-line coronary artery disease test, assigning CCTA their highest recommendation level and proposing it for a large group of patients (mid-high risk of CAD, stable chest pain, <65yrs).

FFRct Next in Line – HeartFlow’s FFRct analysis will often serve as the next diagnostic step when CCTA exams reveal obstructive CAD (40-90% stenosis) or are inconclusive, with FFRct results either clarifying diagnosis or supporting treatment decisions. 

Stress Imaging Pathways – The AHA/ACC guidelines also gave stress imaging (e.g. TTE, echo, CMRI, PET, etc.) their highest recommendation level, positioning stress imaging for more serious cases (likely or confirmed obstructive CAD, ≥65yrs) as well as for diagnosing myocardial ischemia and estimating risks of major cardiac events among patients with less severe cases (intermediate risk, no known CAD, acute chest pain).

Takeaway – These new guidelines are a big deal for coronary imaging, given the millions of people who show up at US emergency departments with chest pain each year. It’s also going to require some big changes across EDs, imaging centers, and radiology departments/practices, who will have to retool their imaging protocols/fleets and be able to expertly interpret a wave of coronary imaging exams (and handle a wave of incidentals).

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-- The Imaging Wire team