What Is a Multiple Gated Acquisition Scan?
A Multiple Gated Acquisition scan, or MUGA scan, is a type of non-invasive angiogram. This scan provides valuable information regarding the heart’s pumping function. Also referred to as a blood pool scan or an equilibrium radionuclide angiogram, the MUGA creates a video image which demonstrates the ventricles, or the lower chambers, of the heart in motion. By combining a radioactive substance with red blood cells and injecting the combination into the bloodstream, we can obtain images of the heart. A gamma camera is then able to follow the path of radiation through the heart.
Preparing for the MUGA Scan
Patients scheduled for a MUGA scan receive instructions based on the details of their test. For example, a MUGA scan can be resting or active. Depending on the type of scan, patients may need to refrain from eating or drinking for up to 6 hours before their test. Instructions may also call for caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco avoidance for the 24 hours prior to the scan.
If you have recently undergone a thyroid or bone scan, or any other nuclear test recently, be sure to inform our physicians before your scan. Also, if you are taking any medications, be sure to ask our staff if these can be taken on the day of the test. Certain heart medications, such as nitrates and digoxin, may alter the findings of a MUGA scan.
Women should disclose if they are pregnant or suspect they may be pregnant. Breastfeeding women should not have a MUGA scan due to the use of radiation, however minor. Our physicians will also assess your heartbeat to rule out irregularity that may affect the results of the scan.
What Happens During a MUGA Scan?
Patients can receive a MUGA scan in a radiology facility or the radiology department in a hospital. To start, small, round adhesive patches called electrodes are attached to the skin on the chest. Men with chest hair may have small areas of hair shaved to maximize the efficiency of the electrodes. The small patches have wires attached to them, which travel to an electrocardiograph monitor that will track the electrical activity of the heart during the scan. Then, an IV is inserted into a vein in the arm.
Patients will be on an exam table beneath the gamma camera. We will draw blood to obtain red blood cells to mix with the radioactive tracer. Once we combine those substances, we can inject it into the IV line. The radioactive material makes the red blood cells more visible on the gamma camera. The gamma camera tracks the visible red blood cells, measuring the amount of cellular matter that pumps through the heart with each beat. The walls of the heart may also be observed and photographed. The MUGA scan is usually completed in one to two hours. After the scan, patients can resume normal activities right away.
How Will I Get My Multiple Gated Acquisition Scan Results?
Our cardiologists will evaluate the MUGA scan to calculate what we call the ejection fraction. This is the percentage of blood flow from each ventricle that occurs with each heartbeat. This percentage may range from 50 to 70 percent. A lower percentage may indicate damage or disease in the heart muscle. After the scan is evaluated, a full report is sent to the referring physician, who then contacts the patient to discuss results.
What Can a MUGA Scan Help Treat?
A MUGA scan can measure several valuable characteristics of cardiac function. For example, patients can undergo this scan after they had a heart attack to identify which area of the heart muscle may be functioning abnormally. The measurements of a MUGA scan can also provide essential clues about atherosclerosis and which coronary arteries are affected by this condition.
Patients with cardiomyopathy may also undergo a MUGA scan to observe the overall function of the heart based on the action of the left ventricle ejection fraction. Knowing the general functionality of the heart, we are better able to monitor and treat patients with heart failure, cardiomyopathy, heart attack, and other conditions. Often, doctors request a MUGA scan before commencing with chemotherapy or as a follow-up or method of monitoring a patient’s heart health during cancer treatment.
MUGA Scan Risks
MUGA scans utilize radioactive material, which is generally safe due to the low dosage involved in imaging. After the test, the body will process the radioactive substance through the kidneys in about a 24-hour period. Although rare, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to the radioactive tracer.
Schedule a consultation
To learn more about the Multiple Gated Acquisition scan, please call 516-437-5600 and schedule a consultation with our physicians at one of our New York offices. You can change your life with Multiple Gated Acquisition (MUGA) scan and you can take the first step by speaking with us.