If blood flow to the heart muscle has been decreased or absent due to coronary artery disease, the heart tissue may appear to have irreversible myocardial damage. In patients where the left ventricle is not functioning adequately, treatment options are limited and many of these patients are advised that a heart transplant may be their only option. However, some of these patients may benefit significantly in terms of symptom improvement, enhanced quality of life, and improved survival if they undergo successful revascularization or bypass surgery.
PET/CT imaging is used by physicians to determine the viability of heart muscle prior to revascularization and can help the physician determine if there is permanent damage or whether bypass surgery would reverse the effects of the blockage and improve the function of the heart. The term "hibernating myocardium" is used by physicians to describe the heart tissue that adapts to decreased blood flow by shutting down and downgrading function, but can be restored to full function by restoring adequate blood flow.