Cardiac Imaging Services

Cardiac MRI

The UCSF Imaging Center at China Basin offers the full range of standard cardiac imaging procedures performed at the highest quality, as well as more sophisticated imaging tests using nuclear medicine and other advanced techniques.


Cardiac PET is a superior method for evaluating perfusion compared to SPECT

  • About four times faster than SPECT, with less radiation exposure to the patient
  • Valuable when results from SPECT are inconclusive
  • Can provide quantitative data beyond the qualitative data furnished by SPECT
  • Nuclear medicine technologists have extensive experience in cardiac PET and all are dual licensed in both computed tomography and comprehensive nuclear medicine diagnostic services

UCSF is the world leader in MRI of the heart. 

Clinical advantages include:

  • High degree of precision, allowing for quantification of cardiac function
  • One of the most accurate methods for evaluating myocardial viability, including subendocardial perfusion defects
  • New applications, including evaluation of cardiomyopathies, myocarditis, pericardial disease, and valvular heart disease

Coronary CT Angiography (CTA)

  • UCSF’s state-of-the-art CT scanners can obtain 3-D images of the entire heart and coronary arteries in a few seconds
  • Less invasive and lower cost than standard coronary angiography
  • UCSF offers the latest protocols, including the most advanced very low dose radiation exposure techniques

Combination myocardial perfusion assessment with PET and coronary CT Angiography (CTA)

UCSF is one of very few locations in the world that offers this “one stop shop” approach to evaluating coronary artery disease.

China Basin Techs


Perfusion Studies


  • The latest SPECT/CT cameras allow rapid acquisition, which cuts traditional SPECT exam time in half, thus greatly aiding patient comfort.
  • Advanced reconstruction algorithms produce state-of-the-art image quality with CT attenuation correction.
  • Concurrent low dose CT is available with all studies so that anatomic localization and correlation with SPECT can be used when needed.

Cardiac Stress Test

  • Treadmill Exercise and Pharmacologic Vasodilator Stress Perfusion Imaging offered, depending upon the indication and patient needs.
  • A team of highly trained physicians, nurses and technologists perform these tests.

Cardiac PET (myocardial perfusion assessment)

  • Diagnostic high quality non-contrast CT can be obtained with all studies for optimal anatomic-pathophysiologic correlation.
  • The latest software, supported by our technologist and physics staff, permits dynamic analysis and extraction of parameters that otherwise may not be available.

Qualitative and Quantitative Vasodilator Stress Myocardial Perfusion Imaging with N-13H3

  • Quantitation gives the clinician a particularly sensitive and accurate assessment of regional coronary flow reserve and pathophysiology, overcoming even the minimal risk of false-negative tests due to balanced ischemia.
  • The UCSF Imaging Center at China Basin is the only location in San Francisco capable of performing quantitation of the flow reserve because it requires the ability to produce the imaging agent N-13H3 ammonia, which provides the highest possible image resolution for optimal diagnostic accuracy.
  • This method is of special value in large or obese patients, with known or a high likelihood of coronary disease, and/or patients with complicated or puzzling anatomy.
  • UCSF is also capable of perfusion testing with Rubidium-82.

Coronary Calcium Scoring

Concurrent calcium scoring can be obtained from all SPECT/CT and PET/CT studies and may be provided to the referring physician on request.

Coronary CTA

Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (Coronary CTA), which can provide images of the coronary arteries and accurate detail of the beating heart, provides innovative displays that can be utilized to facilitate the detection of atherosclerotic lesions.

This non-invasive technique provides clear depiction of the coronary arteries and has been shown to deliver similar results to invasive coronary angiography for detection of significant coronary stenosis at lower cost.

The state-of-the-art CT scanners available at the UCSF Imaging Center at China Basin can obtain three dimensional images of the entire heart in a few seconds. With modern radiation control techniques, UCSF’s scanners are able to acquire accurate coronary CT images using one-third of the radiation generally necessary for standard invasive coronary angiography.

PET/Coronary CTA

The UCSF Imaging Center at China Basin is one of the few centers in the world that offers the possibility of combined coronary CTA and PET perfusion images. A “one stop shop” approach for diagnosing coronary artery disease, this novel technology can provide full anatomic and perfusion assessment during a single patient visit. An advanced workstation for correlation of the anatomic and functional images is available.

Please note that this procedure is currently offered only at the UCSF Imaging Center at China Basin.

MRI of the Heart

MRI of the heart, now a well recognized method for cardiac evaluation, was developed at UCSF and other leading cardiac imaging centers 30 years ago. UCSF Professor Charles Higgins, M.D was a pioneer in this field.

MRI, which has the advantage of no radiation and no iodinated contrast media, can provide very precise images for quantification of cardiac function. Cardiac MRI is considered one of the “gold standards” for myocardial viability. This technique can even detect small subendocardial infarcts, for which it is superior to any other imaging method.

Obtaining detailed perfusion images with pharmacologic stress is also possible using MRI.

Newer clinical applications for cardiac MRI include evaluation of cardiomyopathies, myocarditis, pericardial disease, and valvular heart disease. Other indications for cardiac MRI are detailed morphologic and functional assessment of a variety of congenital heart defects and evaluation for coronary anomalies.

Please note that this procedure is currently offered only at the Parnassus main campus of UCSF.