What is SPECT?

SPECT stands for single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT). It is a machine that acquires 3D images of nuclear medicine tests. The tests can be done to look at bones, internal organs, and the nervous system.

How does SPECT work?

A patient is injected with a radioisotope that is specific to the body system being imaged. The scanner captures the gamma rays from the radioisotope as it rotates around the body. It then converts the data into a 3D image.

How to prepare for your SPECT scan

The schedulers in the imaging department will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your particular exam. In general you should:

  • Leave metallic jewelry at home
  • Inform the technologist if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Bring a list of all medications and supplements you take
  • Let the technologist know if you have any metal in your body as this may alter the scan
  • Plan to be in the imaging center for approximately 1-2 hours

Is SPECT safe?

For most people, SPECT scans are safe. If you receive an injection or infusion of radioactive tracer, you may experience:

  • Bleeding, pain or swelling where the needle was inserted in your arm
  • Rarely, an allergic reaction to the radioactive tracer

The radiation dose from a SPECT is similar to that of a CT scan. The health care team uses the lowest amount of radiation possible in order to perform the scan. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about your exposure to radiation during a SPECT scan. Be sure to tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. The radioactive tracer used in a SPECT scan may affect a developing fetus or nursing baby.

Common uses of SPECT

  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Cancer
  • Endocrine disorders

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