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Heart perfusion scan

This is a test where a small amount of radioactivity and a special "gamma camera" are used to obtain pictures of your heart muscle. The radioactivity is injected into a vein in your arm or hand.

Here are the answers to some common questions regarding the procedure.

What does the scan show?

The heart is a large muscle which needs a good blood supply to function normally. The heart muscle gets its blood supply from small arteries called coronary arteries. The scan shows how good these small arteries are at supplying the heart muscle with blood. Sometimes two scans are required for us to make a diagnosis.

Why might I need two scans?

We sometimes need to look at the blood supply to your heart at both rest and exercise in order to make the diagnosis.

Is there any special preparation for the test?

Yes. You must not drink tea, coffee or other drinks containing caffeine (e.g. cola, Red Bull) for 24 hours prior to your first scan. You may drink water or fruit juice. Please have a light breakfast/meal before the scan. If you are diabetic you may eat as normal.

Can I still take my normal medication?

Some medication will need to be stopped for a day or two before your test. Please see your appointment letter for details or phone the department on 0121 371 2282 with a list of your current medication and you will be told which tablets need to be stopped and for how long.

How will I exercise?

If you are able, we ask you to use a treadmill. You may have had a similar test before. Your heart beat and blood pressure will be checked throughout the test.
It is essential that you wear suitable shoes and clothes for exercise. We suggest trousers for ladies and preferably a short sleeved, front opening blouse or shirt. When you are at peak exercise the radiation injection will be given.

What if I cannot exercise?

We appreciate that some people cannot exercise, but the test can still be performed.

Instead of using the treadmill, we will give you a substance called "Adenosine" or “Regadenoson”. This increases the blood supply to the heart muscle as if you were exercising.

Sometimes Adenosine will not be given to people with asthma. If you are asthmatic, or use an inhaler you must let us know before attending the test.

How long will I need to wait?

There has to be a wait of at least 35 minutes after you have had the radiation injection before you are scanned. After the injection, you will be given a drink of milk and a biscuit.

What does the scan involve?

You will be asked to lie on a bed with your arms supported above your head whilst the gamma camera takes pictures of your chest. You must remain still for about 20 minutes while the scan takes place. We will make you as comfortable as possible before starting the scan.

Is the radiation dangerous?

The amount of radiation you receive is small. For each scan it is similar to that received from a CT of your abdomen or about two years of natural background radiation.

Is there anything else I need to know?

If you are, or could be, pregnant or are breast feeding, please telephone the department. It may be necessary to change your appointment or do a pregnancy test.
Mobile phones must be switched off in the department as they affect medical equipment.

If you need any further information, please contact the department on:

Last reviewed: 14 June 2023