Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT)

Single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) is a type of nuclear imaging test that uses a special camera and a radioactive chemical, known as a tracer, to create 3-D images of your internal organs. The tracer is a special substance that is only absorbed by certain cells. A SPECT scan can provide helpful insight to your doctor about your blood flow and chemical reactions.

A SPECT scan can help your doctor diagnose and assess conditions such as:

  • Dementia
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Head injuries
  • Clogged arteries and blood vessels
  • Reduced heart function
  • Bone fractures
  • Cancer that has spread to the bones

SPECT Scan: What to Expect

A radiologist or nuclear medicine specialist and a technologist administer a SPECT scan.

During the test, you will lie on a table. First, the tracer will be administered by IV. It takes about 20 minutes for the tracer to be absorbed by your body. Some patients will have to wait several hours between the time the tracer is injected and the SPECT scan.

For each scan, the SPECT machine will rotate around you, using a camera to take images of your internal organs and other structures that absorb the tracer.

The tracer used in the test contains a small amount of radiation. However, the risk of side effects is low.

After the test is complete, the technologist will provide images from the scan to your doctor.

SPECT Scan: How to Prepare

Before your SPECT scan, be sure to take the following important steps:

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Inform your doctor of all medications and supplements you are taking.
  • Talk to your doctor about specific preparations for your test, such as avoiding food or caffeine.