SPECT image of the heart

Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is a nuclear medicine image test. Doctors use SPECT to diagnose chest pain, to assess your risk of heart attack, and to monitor the heart after bypass surgery. It is also used to diagnose brain disorders, such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, and to detect cancer in body organs or determine the extent to which cancer has spread.

When used to detect whether a heart attack is occurring or may occur, SPECT locates areas of the heart muscle that have inadequate blood flow compared with areas that have normal flow. Inadequate blood flow indicates that coronary arteries are blocked and a heart attack is occurring. SPECT can also assess the severity of the blood flow blockage.

For this test, your doctor injects a tiny amount of radioactive tracers through a vein in your arm. After the radioactive tracer is injected, a camera that can detect the radiation emitted by these tracers rotates around you, creating images of your heart from different angles. Then, computer graphics are used to create three-dimensional images of your heart.

Last Updated: May 5, 2009

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