Cardiac blood pool scan

Definition

A cardiac blood pool scan is a non-invasive test that uses a mildly radioactive marker to observe the functioning of the left ventricle of the heart.

Purpose

The left ventricle is the main pump for distributing blood through the body. A cardiac blood pool scan is used to determine how efficiently the left ventricle is working. The scan can detect aneurysms of the left ventricle, motion abnormalities caused by damage to the heart wall, cardiac shunts between the left and right ventricle, and coronary occlusive artery disease.


Precautions

Pregnant women are the only patients who should not participate in a cardiac blood pool scan. However, the accuracy of the results may be affected if the patient moves during imaging, has had other recent nuclear scans, or has an irregular heartbeat.



Description

A cardiac blood pool scan is sometimes called equilibrium radionuclide angiocardiography or gated (synchronized) cardiac blood pool imaging. A multiplegated acquisition (MUGA) scan is a variation of this test.

To perform a cardiac blood pool scan, the patient lies under a special gamma scintillation camera that detects radiation. A protein tagged with a radioactive marker (usually technetium-99m) is injected into the patient's forearm.

The camera is synchronized with an electrocardiogram (ECG) to take a picture at specific times in the cycle of heart contraction and relaxation. When data from many sequential pictures is processed by a computer, a doctor can analyze whether the left ventricle is functioning normally.

The patient needs to remain silent and motionless during the test. Sometimes the patient is asked to exercise, then another set of pictures is taken for comparison. This test normally takes about 30 minutes.

Preparation

No changes in diet or medication are necessary. An ECG will probably be done before the test.

Aftercare

The patient may resume normal activities immediately.

Risks

Cardiac blood pool scans are a safe and effective way of measuring left ventricle function. The only risk is to the fetus of a pregnant woman.

Normal results

A computer is used to process the information from the test, then the results are analyzed by a doctor. A normally functioning left ventricle will contract symmetrically, show even distribution of the radioactively tagged protein, and eject about 55-65% of volume of blood it holds on each contraction.

Abnormal results

Patients with damage to the ventricle or heart wall will show an uneven distribution of the radiopharmaceutical. The volume of blood ejected in each contraction will be less than 55%.