Computed tomography (CT) scanning continues to be an important modality for the diagnosis of injury and disease, most notably for indications of the head and abdomen. (1) According to a recent report published by the Canadian Institutes of Health Information, (1) there were about 10.3 scanners per million people in Canada as of January 2004. Ontario had the fewest number of CT scanners per million compared to the other provinces (8 CT scanners per million). The wait time for CT in Ontario of 5 weeks approaches the Canadian median of 6 weeks.
This health technology and policy appraisal systematically reviews the published literature on multidetector CT (MDCT) angiography as a diagnostic tool for the newest indication for CT, coronary artery disease (CAD), and will apply the results of the review to current health care practices in Ontario. This review does not evaluate MDCT to detect coronary calcification without contrast medium for CAD screening purposes.
Compared with conventional CT scanning, MDCT can provide smaller pieces of information and can cover a larger area faster. (2) Advancing MDCT technology (8, 16, 32, 64 slice systems) is capable of producing more images in less time. For general CT scanning, this faster capability can reduce the time that patients must stay still during the procedure, thereby reducing potential movement artefact. However, the additional clinical utility of images obtained from faster scanners compared to the images obtained from conventional CT scanners for current CT indications (i.e., non-moving body parts) is not known.
There are suggestions that the new fast scanners can reduce wait times for general CT. MDCT angiography that utilizes a contrast medium, has been proposed as a minimally invasive replacement to coronary angiography to detect coronary artery disease. MDCT may take between 15 to 45 minutes; coronary angiography may take up to 1 hour.
Although 16-slice and 32-slice CT scanners have been available for a few years, 64-slice CT scanners were released only at the end of 2004.
There are many proven, evidence-based indications for conventional CT. It is not clear how MDCT will add to the clinical utility and management of patients for established CT indications. Therefore, because cardiac imaging, specifically MDCT angiography, is a new indication for CT, this literature review focused on the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of MDCT angiography compared with coronary angiography in the diagnosis and management of people with CAD.
This review asked the following questions:
Is the most recent MDCT angiography effective in the imaging of the coronary arteries compared with conventional angiography to correctly diagnose of significant (> 50% lumen reduction) CAD?
What is the utility of MDCT angiography in the management and treatment of patients with CAD?
How does MDCT angiography in the management and treatment of patients with CAD affect longterm outcomes?
The published literature from January 2003 to January 31, 2005 was searched for articles that focused on the detection of coronary artery disease using 16-slice CT or faster, compared with coronary angiography. The search yielded 138 articles; however, 125 were excluded because they did not meet the inclusion criteria (comparison with coronary angiography, diagnostic accuracy measures calculated, and a sample size of 20 or more). As screening for CAD is not advised, studies that utilized MDCT for this purpose or studies that utilized MDCT without contrast media were also excluded. Overall, 13 studies were included in this review.
Summary of Findings
The published literature focused on 16-slice CT angiography for the detection of CAD. Two abstracts that were presented at the 2005 European Congress of Radiology meeting in Vienna compared 64-slice CT angiography with coronary angiography.
The 13 studies focussing on 16-slice CT angiography were stratified into 2 groups: Group 1 included 9 studies that focused on the detection of CAD in symptomatic patients, and Group 2 included 4 studies that examined the use of 16-slice CT angiography to detect disease progression after cardiac interventions. The 2 abstracts on 64-slice CT angiography were presented separately, but were not critically appraised due to the lack of information provided in the abstracts.
16-Slice Computed Tomography Angiography
The STARD initiative to evaluate the reporting quality of studies that focus on diagnostic tests was used. Overall the studies were relatively small (fewer than 100 people), and only about one-half recruited consecutive patients. Most studies reported inclusion criteria, but 5 did not report exclusion criteria. In these 5, the patients were highly selected; therefore, how representative they are of the general population of people with suspicion if CAD or those with disease progression after cardiac intervention is questionable. In most studies, patients were either already taking, or were given, β-blockers to reduce their heart rates to improve image quality sufficiently. Only 6 of the 13 studies reported interobserver reliability quantitatively. The studies typically assessed the quality of the images obtained from 16-slice CT angiography, excluded those of poor quality, and compared the rest with the gold standard, coronary angiography. This practice necessarily inflated the diagnostic accuracy measures. Only 3 studies reported confidence intervals around their measures.
Evaluation of the studies in Group 1 reported variable sensitivity, from just over 60% to 96%, but a more stable specificity, at more than 95%. The false positive rate ranged from 5% to 8%, but the false negative rate was at best under 10% and at worst about 30%. This means that up to one-third of patients who have disease may be missed. These patients may therefore progress to a more severe level of disease and require more invasive procedures. The calculated positive and negative likelihood ratios across the studies suggested that 16-slice CT angiography may be useful to detect disease, but it is not useful to rule out disease. The prevalence of disease, measured by conventional coronoary angiography, was from 50% to 80% across the studies in this review. Overall, 16-slice CT angiography may be useful, but there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that it is equivalent to or better than coronary angiography to detect CAD in symptomatic patients.
In the 4 studies in Group 2, sensitivity and specificity were both reported at more than 95% (except for 1 that reported sensitivity of about 80%). The positive and negative likelihood ratios suggested that the test might be useful to detect disease progression in patients who had cardiac interventions. However, 2 of the 4 studies recruited patients who had been asymptomatic since their intervention. As many of the patients studied were not symptomatic, the relevance of performing MDCT angiography in the patient population may be in question.
64-Slice Computed Tomography Angiography
An analysis from the interim results based on 2 abstracts revealed that 64-slice CT angiography was insufficient compared to coronary angiography and may not be better than 16-slice CT angiography to detect CAD.
Cardiac imaging is a relatively new indication for CT. A systematic review of the literature was performed from 2003 to January 2005 to determine the effectiveness of MDCT angiography (16-slice and 64-slice) compared to coronary angiography to detect CAD. At the time of this report, there was no published literature on 64-slice CT for any indications.
Based on this review, the Medical Advisory Secretariat concluded that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that 16-slice or 64-slice CT angiography is equal to or better than coronary angiography to diagnose CAD in people with symptoms or to detect disease progression in patients who had previous cardiac interventions. An analysis of the evidence suggested that in investigating suspicion of CAD, a substantial number of patients would be missed. This means that these people would not be appropriately treated. These patients might progress to more severe disease and possibly more adverse events. Overall, the clinical utility of MDCT in patient management and long-term outcomes is unknown.
Based on the current evidence, it is unlikely that CT angiography will replace coronary angiography completely, but will probably be used adjunctively with other cardiac diagnostic tests until more definitive evidence is published.
If multi-slice CT scanners are used for coronary angiography in Ontario, access to the current compliment of CT scanners will necessarily increase wait times for general CT scanning. It is unlikely that these newer-generation scanners will improve patient throughput, despite the claim that they are faster.
Screening for CAD in asymptomatic patients and who have no history of ischemic heart disease using any modality is not advised, based on the World Health Organization criteria for screening. Therefore, this review did not examine the use of multi-slice CT for this purpose.