What is a soft tissue artifact?

Jennifer H. Haythe, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A soft tissue artifact is a finding usually described on an imaging study; in a heart imaging test, the term refers to tissues around the heart such as large or dense breasts or the lungs that may distort the image. 
Francisco J. Jimenez-Carcamo, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A soft tissue artifact can make it difficult to read images from certain heart imaging tests. In imaging, an artifact is "noise" that obscures or distorts the image; attenuation is a common type of artifact in heart imaging, caused by other tissues scattering or absorbing some of the energy in the scan. Therefore, a soft tissue artifact is basically when tissues surrounding the heart (such as the lungs or breasts) distort the image.
These artifacts can vary based on a person's gender, body size, the depth of heart in the body and the patient's position. When interpreting an image, doctors have to know how to correct for artifacts, since misreading them can lead to a missed diagnosis or unnecessary follow-up tests or procedures.

A “soft tissue artifact” may show up on an image produced by a nuclear stress test. During a nuclear stress test you receive an injection of a special radioactive dye that then travels through your blood vessels. A nuclear camera is used to take color-coded pictures of the heart to measure blood flow before, during and after exercise.

After a stress test, your physician may mention that you have “soft tissue artifact,” or “soft tissue attenuation.” What this means is that soft tissue, such as breast tissue, is showing up on the image created by the stress test. Soft tissue artifact can give the false appearance of an area of reduced blood flow to the heart.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.