A single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scan lets your doctor analyze the function of some of your internal organs. A SPECT scan is a type of nuclear imaging test, which means it uses a radioactive substance and a special camera to create 3-D pictures.
While imaging tests like X-rays can show what the structures inside your body look like, a SPECT scan produces images that show how your organs work. For instance, a SPECT scan can show how blood flows to your heart or what areas of your brain are more active or less active.
The most common uses of SPECT are to help diagnose or monitor brain disorders, heart problems and bone disorders.
SPECT can be helpful in determining which parts of the brain are being affected by:
- Clogged blood vessels
- Head injuries
Because the radioactive tracer highlights areas of blood flow, SPECT can check for:
- Clogged coronary arteries. If the arteries that feed the heart muscle become narrowed or clogged, the portions of the heart muscle served by these arteries can become damaged or even die.
- Reduced pumping efficiency. SPECT can show how completely your heart chambers empty during contractions.
Areas of bone healing or cancer progression usually light up on SPECT scans, so this type of test is being used more frequently to help diagnose hidden bone fractures. SPECT scans can also diagnose and track the progression of cancer that has spread to the bones.