A brain SPECT, or Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography, scan is used to detect altered blood flow in the brain. A SPECT scan is a nuclear medicine exam that uses a radioactive compound to diagnose some diseases of the brain. It is a form of radiology because radiation is used to capture pictures of the human body.


Procedural Details

You will be given a small dose of radioactive material through an intravenous (IV) line. This compound, called a tracer, collects in the brain and gives off gamma rays. The gamma camera detects the rays and then produces pictures and measurements of the brain. The amount of radiation is very small. However, if there is any chance you are pregnant, please let the technologist know.

Minutes after your injection, you will undergo imaging of your brain. The imaging involves lying flat while the camera takes pictures of your brain.

The technologist will help you be comfortable. The imaging will take 35 minutes. You must not move during the time the camera is taking pictures. If you move, the pictures will be blurry and may have to be repeated. The entire test should take about one hour.

Because SPECT uses radiation, you may not have a family member or friend in the room during the exam. Most of the radioactivity passes out of your body in urine or stool, while the remainder simply goes away with time.


During the scan, you may experience:

  • Minor discomfort from the IV during a nuclear medicine procedure
  • Difficulty lying still on the exam table

A health-care provider skilled in nuclear medicine will review and interpret the findings. He or she will not discuss the results with you, but will send a report to your provider, who will give you the results.

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