SPECT Image of the Heart

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SPECT Image of the Heart

Topic Overview

Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is a nuclear medicine imaging test. It is a type of positron emission tomography, also called a PET scan.

Doctors use SPECT to:

  • Diagnose a person with symptoms of heart disease.
  • Assess your risk of heart attack.
  • Find damaged heart tissue after a heart attack.

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 means that coronary arteries are blocked and a heart attack is occurring. SPECT can also assess how bad the blood flow blockage is.

It is a non-invasive imaging scan that exposes you to radiation. 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.

If your SPECT test is abnormal, you are considered at high risk of a heart attack.

For more information about PET scans, see Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan).

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John M. Miller, MD - Electrophysiology
Last Revised June 6, 2011

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