Imaging to Assess Ischemic Heart Disease in Women

Kaartiga Sivanesan, Subhi J. Al’Aref, James K. Min, Jessica M. Peña, Fay Lin, Erica C. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Ischemic heart disease is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality for women and men around the world. However, traditional cardiovascular risk factors do not fully capture cardiac risk in women. This review summarizes sex-based differences in the clinical presentation, pathophysiology, and risk assessment of ischemic heart disease. We also examine the use of anatomic and functional imaging modalities in the diagnosis of ischemic heart disease in women. Recent Findings: Recent studies with women subjects have bolstered the predictive value of the coronary artery calcium (CAC) score in predicting atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk and major adverse cardiac events in a graded fashion. In addition, combined CAC scoring and coronary computed tomography (CCTA) has shown promise in excluding coronary artery disease (CAD). Using CCTA, data have suggested that increasing cardiovascular risk factors are associated with an increase in noncalcified coronary plaque in women compared with an increase in both calcified and noncalcified plaque in men with cardiac risk factors. Some data have suggested that women obtain greater prognostic benefit from CCTA than from other noninvasive tests. Fractional flow reserve obtained from a CCTA (FFRCT) is a new mathematical assessment of coronary blood flow that determines the presence of lesion-specific myocardial ischemia. Summary: Prevention and identification of ischemic heart disease remains a foundation of cardiology and public health. In women, atypical symptoms and limitations in traditional risk factor assessment lead to challenges in the identification of ischemic heart disease. With improvements in technologies such as CAC scoring, CCTA, instantaneous flow reserve (iFR), optical coherence tomography (OCT), and FFRCT, there is great promise for identification of ischemic heart disease, and the future of prevention in women. Future studies with strong female representation should investigate the role of novel imaging techniques in women.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
JournalCurrent Atherosclerosis Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Coronary microvascular dysfunction
  • Heart disease in women
  • Imaging
  • Ischemia
  • Nonobstructive CAD


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