A technique that fuses molecular images and creates a detailed 3-D color representation of the inner workings of the heart has been developed by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.The procedure could improve the diagnosis of heart disease and also be used to guide the treatment of coronary artery disease, the researchers said. The results were presented in June at the annual meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine in Washington.The 3-D images were created with several techniques. Scans of the coronary arteries, which were taken with CT angiography, were superimposed onto images of heart muscles. The researchers also used nuclear imaging techniques, including PET and single-photon-emission computed tomography (SPECT), to view blood flow to the heart. The images were fused with the others and displayed with a novel computer technique.A CT angiography scan is an x-ray procedure that produces cross-sectional images of the arteries. PET and SPECT are techniques that use short-lived radioactive substances to reveal information about blood flow and heart function.The researchers tested the approach on 50 patients and concluded that when the images were fused, diagnosis of coronary heart disease was improved as compared with diagnoses made with images that were not fused. The researchers said that more work is needed to improve the accuracy of the superimposition of the coronary arteries onto the heart. The rendering method of displaying the images so that the correct information is passed on to the physician also must be improved. The technique has been in development for 15 years.