What Is SPECT Imaging and When Would You Need It?

What is SPECT Imaging? The complicated answer is a Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography.

But that’s a mouthful for anyone. We refer to it as SPECT imaging. These scans help us diagnose and monitor the treatment of several different areas of your body.

What Is SPECT Imaging?

It’s a valuable scan that helps us get a detailed view of what’s going on within your brain, heart and bones. This enables us to make a detailed diagnosis and create a tailored treatment plan

It’s similar to an X-ray, but has some major differences. One of the differences is this: X-rays can show bones and organs inside your body. However, a SPECT scan takes this a giant leap forward. It creates 3D pictures that give an idea of how your organs are working.

This means our radiologists and other specialists can monitor your blood flow or brain activity while it’s occurring. It’s a marvel of medical technology, and we’re proud to offer it at Conway Medical Center.

What Happens During a SPECT Scan?

There are several steps you must undergo during a SPECT scan. We’ll take a look at a few of them here. If you have any questions about them, you should speak with your doctor and health care team.

Preparation for a SPECT scan
First, your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare. This may vary depending upon your situation and the part of the body being scanned.

You should always give your health care team a list of all medications you’re taking—including herbal supplements and over-the-counter medication.

It’s also important to let the technologist know if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Finally, make sure you leave any metallic jewelry at home.

Injection of a Tracer
Before the test begins, a liquid “tracer” must be injected. This will enable the scan to monitor how your body functions by “lighting up” certain parts of the body that appear on the scan. The tracer is actually a radioactive injection—but don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe.

You may have to wait several hours before the injection takes effect and is absorbed by your body’s tissues.

The SPECT Scan Machine
This is a circular device that uses a camera. The camera detects the radioactive tracer that has been absorbed by the body.

Similar to a regular CT scan or an MRI, you lie on a table and the SPECT machine will move around you. The machine captures detailed images of your organs and bones. These pictures are then sent to a computer that creates 3D images based upon the SPECT images.

After the Procedure
While the radioactive tracer will leave your body through urine, your doctor might encourage you to drink a lot of fluids in order to help the process. Usually, it’s out of your system within a few hours.

How Long Does a SPECT Scan Take?

It’s really difficult to answer this question because it often depends on the reason you’re having a SPECT CT scan and the area that is being scanned. If you have concerns, it’s best that you ask your doctor. He or she will be able to give a more concrete answer.

What Does a SPECT Brain Scan Monitor?

When you have a SPECT brain scan, your doctors are carefully monitoring you for the parts of your brain that are involved with the following issues:

  • Blocked or clogged blood vessels
  • Seizures
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • Damage from head injuries

SPECT CT for the Heart

But what if you have potential heart problems? A SPECT scan can give cardiologists (heart doctors) great insight. The scan is able to do this because it highlights areas where the blood flows to, through and from the heart.

If your doctor has recommended a SPECT scan, he or she is looking for:

Clogged coronary (heart) arteries
Arteries are very important because they deliver blood to your heart. If they become
narrowed, blocked or clogged, your heart muscle can die.

How well your heart pumps
One of the pluses of SPECT is that it monitors your heart chambers. These expand and
contract when it’s pumping blood. Doctors will look for how well these chambers empty when
they contract.

SPECT for Bone Scans

Not all bone fractures are obvious.

Some people may have hairline fractures that they aren’t aware of. These areas light up on SPECT scans. Therefore, this can help our doctors find hidden bone fractures.

Cancer is a devastating illness, and oncologists (doctors who treat cancer) can both diagnose bone cancer and monitor cancer progression when it spreads to the bones.

Conway Medical Center Imaging Department

Our department is comprised of nationally registered and state-certified professionals including radiologists, technologists and other staff members.

No matter how far away you are, our Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) means that your healthcare provider gets your diagnostic scans in seconds. This is a great benefit, whether you’re in Conway, the Horry County area or even as far away as Charleston.

We are accredited by the American College of Radiology in mammography, MRI, ultrasound and nuclear medicine.

We Welcome Walk-ins

Whether you’re seeking service at our main campus or the Outpatient Diagnostic Center, we have appointments available to easily fit your busy schedule. To get an appointment, simply call 843-234-5474.