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MUGA Scan 

A multigated acquisition (MUGA) scan is a non-invasive nuclear imaging test that allows a physician to evaluate the pumping function of the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). During the test, a small amount of radioactive tracer (radionuclide) is injected into a vein. A special camera (gamma camera) can detect the radiation released by the tracer and produce high-resolution video images of the beating heart.  

Conditions Diagnosed 

A physician may order a MUGA scan test to evaluate: 

  • How well the heart is pumping blood 
  • The size of the heart’s chambers 
  • The pumping action of the heart’s ventricles 
  • Possible abnormalities in the muscle walls of the ventricles 
  • Abnormal blood flow between the heart’s chambers 
  • The effects of chemotherapy on the heart 

Procedure Details 

Before a MUGA scan, a technician will place an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in the patient’s arm and administer a “cold” pyrophosphate solution. After an incubation period of approximately 30-45 minutes, the radioactive tracer will “tag” red blood cells so they can be detected by the gamma camera and used to create images of the heart. 

The technician will also place several small, adhesive patches (electrodes) on the patient’s chest. The electrodes will be connected via wires to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine to chart the electrical impulses of the patient’s heart throughout the exam. 

During the test, the patient will lie on an examination table underneath a gamma camera focused on his or her heart. The camera will capture images, allowing a physician to analyze the radio-labeled red blood cells pumped from the heart with each heartbeat. Using this information, the physician can calculate the ejection fraction, a measurement of how well the heart pumps blood with each beat. 

Typically, the entire process takes between one and two hours, and the patient can go home immediately afterward. 

What to Expect 

No special preparation is needed for a MUGA scan. The test uses a diagnostic dose of radiation similar to the dose used for a CT scan. As such, it involves minimal radiation exposure and has no side effects. The radioactive tracer will remain in the patient’s bloodstream for a few hours, but it will not enter any bodily tissues. 

Effectiveness 

Also known as an equilibrium radionuclide angiogram or a blood pool scan, a MUGA scan can provide a physician with valuable insight into how well the lower chambers of the heart are pumping blood.  

Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute offers a full array of state-of-the-art imaging services for the diagnosis of heart and vascular disease, including multigated acquisition.