What to Expect During a MUGA Scan

The MUGA scan is a test that uses radioactive materials called tracers to show the heart chambers. The procedure is noninvasive. The instruments do not directly touch the heart. You will likely have a MUGA scan before your chemotherapy begins to get a baseline measurement, and then periodically during your treatment to make sure that the chemotherapy is not damaging your heart. In order to see the heart, we will give you a small amount of a radioactive tracer. This material is different from the dyes that are used for a CT or MRI scan. It does not cause nausea, diarrhea, or flushing. MUGA scans expose you to about the same amount of radiation as a chest x-ray.

Preparing for Your Scan

You may be told not to eat or drink beverages for several hours before the test. Your doctor or nurse will give you specific instructions. Please contact them if you have any questions.

The Day of Your Scan

  • You will be given an injection containing the radioactive tracer. You may feel a brief sting in your arm when the IV is inserted.
  • The tracer will attach to your red blood cells. Your blood cells will carry it through your circulatory system, including your heart.
  • The technologist places electrode patches on your chest. The electrodes are attached to a nuclear imaging computer.
  • A gamma camera takes multiple pictures and creates a moving image of your heart.
  • During the test, just try to relax, breathe normally, and lie still.

After the Scan

There are no side effects from the MUGA scan.  The radioactive material presents no immediate danger to you or to the people around you, and no special precautions are needed.

Within six hours after the injection, more than ½ of the radioactivity is either expended or eliminated from your body.

After 48 hours, the radioactivity is completely gone.