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MUGA Scan: About This Test

What is it?

A MUGA (multigated acquisition) scan is a scan of your heart and blood flow. This type of scan shows how well your heart pumps blood to the rest of your body.

During this test, a small amount of a radioactive substance called a tracer is injected into one of your veins. A camera detects the tracer as it flows through your heart.

The camera takes a series of pictures of your heart. Each picture is taken at a specific time of the heartbeat. The pictures are strung together so that they look like a video of your heart's motion and the blood moving through it.

Why is this test done?

A MUGA scan is done to check the size of the chambers of the heart and how well your heart muscle pumps blood to the rest of the body.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • If your test will include exercise:
    • wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
    • you may be asked not to eat or drink for a few hours before the test.
    • do not have any caffeine or smoke for 4 to 6 hours before the test.

How is the test done?

Before the test

  • You will need to remove any jewellery that might interfere with the scan.
  • You may need to take off all or most of your clothes.
  • You may be given a cloth or paper gown to wear during the test.

During the test

  • A MUGA scan can be done either at rest or with exercise.
  • You will lie on an examination table below the camera. Small pads or patches (electrodes) will be attached to your chest.
  • The injection site on your arm will be cleaned. A needle will be put into a vein and a blood sample will be taken. Then the tracer will be added to the blood, which is put back into your vein. You may feel a quick sting or pinch when the needle is put into your arm.
  • The camera will be positioned close to your body. It may be put in different places across your chest to get different views of your heart.
  • The camera will take pictures as the tracer moves through your bloodstream and into your heart. It is important not to move during the scan.
  • You may be asked to:
    • Change position for each different view.
    • Do some exercise between scans to see how well your heart functions after the stress of exercise.

After the test

  • After your scan, you will probably be able to leave the testing room right away.
  • You may have to wait at the test centre until all of your scan pictures have been reviewed. If you moved during the scan and the pictures turned out blurry, the scan may have to be done again.

How long does the test take?

The test may take about 1 to 2 hours.

What are risks of the test?

  • Anytime you're exposed to radiation, there's a small chance of damage to cells or tissue. That's the case even with the low-level radioactive tracer used for this test. But the chance of damage is very low compared with the benefits of the test.
  • The camera doesn't produce any radiation, so you aren't exposed to any more radiation while the scan is being done.

What happens after the test?

  • Drink lots of water and urinate often after your scan. This helps your body flush out the tracer. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Most of the tracer will leave your body through your urine or stool within a day. So be sure to flush the toilet right after you use it, and wash your hands well with soap and water. The amount of radiation in the tracer is very small. This means it isn't a risk for people to be around you after the test.
  • The radioactive tracer used in this test can get into your breast milk. Do not breastfeed your baby for 1 or 2 days after this test. During this time, you can give your baby breast milk you stored before the test, or you can give formula. Discard the breast milk you pump in the 1 or 2 days after the test.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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