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Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography Scan of the Brain

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is a single photon emission computed tomography scan?

A single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan is a test that shows how and where blood flows in your brain. It gives healthcare providers a picture of how your brain works.

What will happen during the SPECT scan?

A healthcare provider will inject a substance called a radioactive tracer into your body. You may instead breathe in the radioactive tracer. You will need to lie still during the scan. A machine will rotate around your head and send pictures to a computer. The pictures will show different areas of your brain. The scan may take up to 90 minutes.

What will happen after the SPECT scan?

You may eat as usual and return to your daily activities. Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink and which liquids are best for you. Liquids help flush the tracer from your body through your urine. You may need to flush the toilet 3 times after you urinate. This is to make sure the tracer does not stay in the toilet bowl.

What are the risks of the SPECT scan?

You may feel dizzy and unsteady when you stand up after the scan. You may hear ringing in your ears or feel sick to your stomach. You may have a burning or prickling feeling on your skin. The place where the medicine was given could become red, swollen, painful, or infected. Rarely, a person may develop a rash, swelling, or have an allergic reaction to the tracer medicine.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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