The new role of diagnostic angiography in coronary physiological assessment.
The role of ‘stand-alone’ coronary angiography (CAG) in the management of patients with chronic coronary syndromes is the subject of debate, with arguments for its replacement with CT angiography on the one hand and its confinement to the interventional cardiac catheter laboratory on the other. Nevertheless, it remains the standard of care in most centres. Recently, computational methods have been developed in which the laws of fluid dynamics can be applied to angiographic images to yield ‘virtual’ (computed) measures of blood flow, such as fractional flow reserve. Together with the CAG itself, this technology can provide an ‘all-in-one’ anatomical and functional investigation, which is particularly useful in the case of borderline lesions. It can add to the diagnostic value of CAG by providing increased precision and reduce the need for further non-invasive and functional tests of ischaemia, at minimal cost. In this paper, we place this technology in context, with emphasis on its potential to become established in the diagnostic workup of patients with suspected coronary artery disease, particularly in the non-interventional setting. We discuss the derivation and reliability of angiographically derived fractional flow reserve (CAG-FFR) as well as its limitations and how CAG-FFR could be integrated within existing national guidance. The assessment of coronary physiology may no longer be the preserve of the interventional cardiologist.