A SPECT, or Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography scan, is a procedure for non-invasively determining heart-muscle functional capacity, identifying abnormality in myocardial perfusion, and distinguishing living tissue from irreparably damaged tissue. A cardiac SPECT exam includes a resting test and a stress test performed on a treadmill or through medication.
How a SPECT Procedure Works
A cardiac SPECT exam images blood flow at rest, which is typically sufficient even in cases of partial vessel blockage. SPECT also images blood flow during stress. Compared image-results accurately indicate whether function, viability, and perfusion are normal or whether scarring from heart attacks or coronary blockages exist.
The Scan Procedure
The cardiac SPECT exam begins with a radiopharmaceutical injection per IV. Following a period of waiting, imaging of the heart in a state of rest becomes available.
During the stress portion, monitoring takes place via wire hook-ups while the patient walks on a treadmill. If the patient is unable to walk, a stressor-medication injection via the IV will produce a similar increase in heart rate and blood flow. Another radiopharmaceutical injection follows in the final cardiac SPECT exam phase. Imaging becomes available in a half-hour to an hour.
Patients can typically arrive 15 or 30 minutes ahead of time for paperwork. After the cardiac SPECT exam, patients can leave and resume normal activity and continue prescribed medications. Results will follow after a review by the physician.
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