Published: May 16, 2007
Updated: Aug. 22, 2011
What is the SPECT Scan?
The SPECT scan, short for single photon emission tomography perfusion scan, is a procedure that gives a three-dimensional picture of the function (assessed by blood flow) in the heart and/or lungs.
When is it used?
SPECT scans are ordered to assess the distribution of function in the heart and/or lungs prior to radiation, and to assess changes in function following radiation.
How do I prepare for pulmonary function tests?
There is no special preparation prior to this test and you should feel fine. It is performed by the Department of Nuclear Medicine on the first floor of Duke University Hospital.
What happens during the procedure?
During the SPECT scan, you will have an injection into a vein in your arm of a small amount of radioactive material. The needle in your arm may be a little uncomfortable, and there is a very remote chance of bleeding or infection from this (similar to a blood test). Following the injection, you will be asked to lie on a table for about 40 minutes while pictures of your heart or lungs are taken.
There should be no pain or discomfort from this scan, other than the injection in the arm.
The scan lasts about 40 minutes and then you can home. You should not need to make special travel arrangements.
What happens after the procedure?
Your physician will discuss the scan results with you either that same day or at a later appointment. For the lung scan, you may be given a copy of the scan to take with you for your doctors visit.
What are the benefits of this procedure?
The results will help your medical team plan your radiation therapy in a way that will minimize the risks of injury to the heart or lungs. The scan also provides a means to monitor changes in function following therapy.
What are the risks associated with this procedure?
The risk of this scan involves an extremely low dose of radiation (less than 1 percent of what you will be receiving as part of your radiation therapy). There is also a small risk of bleeding and infection related to the needle puncture in the arm.
This article is intended as a resource for patients receiving their cancer care at Duke University Hospital or Duke Clinic. It is not intended to substitute for medical advice from your health care team. If your doctor’s instructions differ from the information in this article, please talk with your doctor before making any changes.
Source: Duke Cancer Patient Education Program / Patient & Family Education Committee 8/00