What is a perfusion lung scan?

A perfusion lung scan is a type of nuclear scan that uses a special camera and a radioactive tracer to detect abnormalities in the organs of the body. A perfusion test measures the amount of blood an organ receives through its vessels to supply it with nutrients and oxygen. Certain conditions prevent different areas of your lungs from receiving even amounts of oxygen. Physicians order perfusion lung scans to help diagnose blockages in the pulmonary arteries, also known as embolisms. Physicians also use this test to determine the severity of lung diseases, as well as before lung removal surgery.

What to expect during a perfusion lung scan

There are no special preparations for this test, although it is important to tell your physician if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Your physician may order a chest X-ray before your perfusion lung scan test.

During your procedure

If you are having a perfusion lung scan done, you will receive a small amount of radioactive tracer through an IV. If you are having a ventilation lung scan, you will receive a small amount of radioactive tracer inhaled through a mask. For both tests, once the tracer circulates through your body, you’ll lie on a flat, movable table inside a round scanner. During the test, this scanner rotates around you, taking a series of images. You’ll be able to see and hear your technologist during this test, which takes about 45 minutes.

After your procedure

There are no special directions to follow after your perfusion lung scan, although your physician may give you specific instructions depending on your medical condition. Often additional tests are necessary to adequately diagnose your lung condition.

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