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Lung Scan

How It Is Done

A lung scan is usually done by a nuclear medicine technologist. The scan pictures are usually interpreted by a radiologist or nuclear medicine specialist.

You will need to remove any jewelry that might interfere with the scan. You may need to take off all or most of your clothes, depending on which area is being examined (you may be allowed to keep on your underwear if it does not interfere with the test). You will be given a cloth or paper covering to use during the test.

During the scan, you will either lie on your back with the scanning camera positioned over or under your chest, or you will sit with the camera positioned next to your chest. The camera does not produce any radiation, so you are not exposed to any more radiation while the scan is being done.

Ventilation scan

For the ventilation scan, a mask will be placed over your mouth and nose. Or you may have a nose clip on your nose and a tube in your mouth that you use for breathing. You will inhale the tracer gas or mist through the mask or tube by taking a deep breath and then holding it. The camera will scan for radiation released by the tracer and produce pictures as the tracer moves through your lungs. You may be asked to breathe the gas in and out through your mouth for several minutes. You may then be asked to hold your breath for short periods (about 10 seconds) and to change positions so your lungs can be viewed from other angles. The camera may move to take pictures from different angles. You need to remain very still during the scans to avoid blurring the pictures.

Afterward, the radioactive gas or mist will clear from your lungs as you breathe.

The ventilation scan takes about 15 to 30 minutes.

Perfusion scan

For the perfusion scan, the technologist cleans the site on your arm where the radioactive tracer will be injected. A small amount of the radioactive tracer is then injected.

After the radioactive tracer is injected, the camera will scan for radiation released by the tracer and produce pictures as the tracer moves through your lungs. The camera may be repositioned around your chest to get different views. You need to remain very still during the scans to avoid blurring the pictures.

The perfusion scan takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

How It Feels

You may find that breathing through the mask during the ventilation scan is uncomfortable, especially if you feel very short of breath. But you will be given plenty of oxygen through the mask.

You may feel nothing at all from the needle puncture when the tracer is injected, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes through the skin. Otherwise, a lung scan is usually painless. You may find it hard to remain still during the scan. Ask for a pillow or blanket to make yourself as comfortable as possible before the scan begins.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 01, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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