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Prognostic importance of thallium uptake by the lungs during exercise in coronary artery disease.

N. Engl. J. Med.. Dec 10, 1987;317(24):1486-9.
Gill JB, Ruddy TD, Newell JB, Finkelstein DM, Strauss HW, Boucher CA.

Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


We studied the value of thallium imaging as compared with clinical and exercise-test variables in predicting cardiac events occurring over five years in 525 consecutive patients referred for thallium-exercise testing in 1979. Follow-up was obtained on 467 patients (89 percent). There were 105 cardiac events--25 cardiac deaths, 33 myocardial infarctions, and 47 coronary bypass procedures. A Cox survival analysis identified increased thallium uptake by the lungs, a marker of left ventricular dysfunction during exercise, as the best predictor of a cardiac event (relative risk ratio = 3.5; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.2 to 5.4). The next most powerful predictors were a history of typical angina, a previous myocardial infarction, and ST-segment depression during exercise (relative risk ratios = 2.1, 1.8, and 1.7, respectively). No combination of variables made up for the loss in prognostic power when the variable of increased thallium uptake by the lungs was removed from the model. Cardiac events occurred over five years in 10 (5 percent) of 192 patients with a normal thallium scan, 41 (25 percent) of 163 patients with an abnormal thallium scan but normal thallium activity in the lungs, and 54 (67 percent) of 81 patients with increased thallium uptake by the lungs (P less than 0.0001). We conclude that increased uptake of thallium by the lungs during exercise predicts a high risk of subsequent cardiac events.