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All about science.

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									A SPECT scan, short for Single-photon Emission Computerized Tomography, allows your
doctor to examine the functioning of internal organs of your body. It is a special type of nuclear
imaging test that utilizes radioactive material and an advanced camera to generate images of your
organs.

In comparison to x-rays that display the internal structures of your body in two-dimensional (2-
D) image format, a SPECT scan generates 3-D images that display the actual working of the
organs. For example, a SPECT scan can display the movement of blood to your heart or areas
inside your brain that may be more or less active.

Why a SPECT scan is carried out?

A SPECT scan may be recommended to detect or monitor a variety of medical conditions and
diseases such as:

      Brain disorders - including stroke, seizure and Alzheimer's disease
      Heart problems - including chest pain, heart attack and arterial blockages in the heart
      Various forms of cancer - such as primary tumors and those that have spread to other
       parts of the body (metastasized)

Risks involved

SPECT scans are considered safe for most people. In case a radioactive tracer is administered
through injection or infusion, you may experience:

      Pain, swelling or bleeding at the specific spot on your arm where the needle was inserted
      An allergic reaction induced by the radioactive tracer, although this occurs rarely.

A SPECT scan is not considered safe for pregnant or breast-feeding women because there are
chances that the radioactive tracer may affect the developing fetus or the new-born baby. A
pregnancy test may be required prior to a SPECT scan in case of women having reached
childbearing age.

Radiation risks

The least possible amount of radiation is used during a SPECT scan. Radiation levels during
such scans are similar to what you may be exposed to over a period of one year in the natural
environment. If you are concerned about radiation exposure associated with a SPECT scan, you
need to talk to your doctor.




What to expect?
During a SPECT scan
SPECT scans usually involve a two-step procedure - the infusion or injection of radioactive dye
(knows as radioactive tracer) and scanning of specific parts of your body using a SPECT
machine.

Receiving the radioactive substance

The radioactive substance will be administered to you through an injection or an intravenous
(IV) infusion into one of the veins in your arm. In specific cases, you may be asked to inhale the
radioactive substance through your nose.

The radioactive substances are processed inside your body wherein the most active tissues
absorb more of the substance. For example, the region inside your brain that may be responsible
for the seizures will absorb more of the radioactive substance. This will make it easier for
doctors to pinpoint the region inside your brain causing the seizures. It is also likely that cancer
cells will absorb more of the radioactive substance in comparison to normal cells because cancer
cells generally grow at a much faster rate than normal cells.

The type of radioactive substance you will be administered will depend on the specific procedure
being followed and the part of your body that is to be scanned. Prior to the scan, you may have to
lie down quietly in a room for around 15 minutes or more to allow proper absorption of the
radioactive substance.

Taking the SPECT scan test

The health care team members will position you on a table in the desired manner in the room
where your SPECT scan test is to be conducted.

A large circular device, a SPECT machine has a special camera known as a gamma camera that
measures the amount of radioactive substance absorbed by your body. The SPECT machine will
rotate around you during the scan while you are lying on the table. It then shoots pictures of
organs and other internal structures in your body. The pictures are then processed by a computer
to generate 3-D images of the body.

The duration of the SPECT scan will depend on the underlying objective for your procedure. In
specific cases, you may be required to take more scan tests, a few hours or days later.

After the SPECT scan test

In just a few hours after the SPECT scan, most of the radioactive substance is flushed out by the
body through the urine. You may be instructed to increase your intake of fluids, for example,
water or juice, to help your body remove the radioactive substance. What may be left behind is
broken down by your body in one or two days.

Your doctor will evaluate results derived through the SPECT scan. Pictures obtained from the
scan may display specific colors, allowing your doctor to pinpoint areas in your body that
absorbed more of the radioactive substance in comparison to other areas. For example, an image
generated by a SPECT machine may display lighter colors for areas inside the brain where cells
are less active and darker colors for areas with more active cells. Some SPECT images display
shades of gray instead of colors

								
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