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What is a MUGA Scan?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A Multiple Gated Acquisition (MUGA) scan is a type of medical diagnostic imaging which is used to assess heart function. The MUGA scan is also referred to as a nuclear ventriculogram. There are a number of reasons for such a scan to be ordered, ranging from routine check-ups on heart function during chemotherapy treatments to a through examination of a patient who has recently experienced a serious cardiac event. When done properly, a MUGA scan should be painless for the patient, and it is generally not harmful, except to pregnant women or other people who may be especially susceptible to radioactive substances.

When a MUGA scan is performed, a small amount of a radioactive isotope is attached to red blood cells and then injected into the blood stream. The isotope emits weak gamma rays which can be detected with a special camera positioned over the patient. As the blood fills the ventricles or chambers of the heart, the camera picks up a clear picture of the heart's function, creating an animated image of the beating heart which is used in diagnostics.

There are some variations on the basic MUGA scan. A patient may be asked to exercise during the scan, for example, to get an idea of how the heart performs under stress. Some scans may also involve the use of a vasodilator like nitroglycerin to see how this changes heart function. After around 48 hours, most patients will have successfully flushed the radioactive isotope used in the scan from their bodies.

When a MUGA scan is interpreted, doctors can look at things like the ejection fraction, or the amount of blood pumped out of a ventricle every time the heart beats. The performance of the left ventricle is often closely analyzed on a MUGA scan, because left ventricle health is very important to overall physical health. Other heart function parameters are also included in an interpretation of a MUGA scan.

This noninvasive test is extremely accurate. MUGA scans can often detect small changes in heart function early on, allowing doctors to address them before they become serious problems. MUGA scans can also allow doctors to clearly see specific areas of damage in the heart, and they are used to assure doctors that their treatment plans are working. This is especially important in medical disciplines like oncology, as heart function can be impacted by cancer treatment, and it is important to ensure that the patient stays as healthy as possible, or the chemotherapy drugs may have to be adjusted.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon280868 — On Jul 20, 2012

I just had one yesterday. You get an I.V.and have the first substance put into it (PYP I believe it's called) and wait 30 minutes, then go back to the "MUGA" scanning room where they get you ready for the machine and give you the 'radioactive' medication into your I.V. then they take three pictures total which are then sent to your doctor for review.

The MUGA scan is to make sure blood is getting into your heart. There are literally no side effects and painless (except the I.V., unless you like needles.) Best of luck to your father and hope all goes well.

By anon262253 — On Apr 19, 2012

Can a MUGA present problems for a person who is on hemodialysis? They just discontinued chemo (thalidomide pills) because it was no longer effective, and the patient's protein levels had doubled since January of this year.

By anon219217 — On Oct 02, 2011

can a muga scan diagnose unruptured sinus of valsalva?

By anon219215 — On Oct 02, 2011

can a muga scan define dominant coronary?

By anon200473 — On Jul 27, 2011

My mother is 89 and has congestive heart failure. Her recent echo cardiogram showed a weaking of the pumping function of the heart. Now they want to do a MUGA scan. If they find something on the MUGA scan, what would they do about it? I can't see my mother having surgery at this point, so is there a reason to have the test?

By rallenwriter — On Aug 10, 2010

MUGA heart scans are also a good option because they have few side effects.

In fact, when it comes to MUGA scans, side effects are almost non-existent.

The likelihood of someone having an allergic reaction to the injection is low, since the level of the carrier drug is so low, and the amount of radiation is about the same that you would get in a CT scan.

All in all, MUGA scanning is a very safe and accurate procedure.

By pharmchick78 — On Aug 10, 2010

@Closerfan12 -- The MUGA scan procedure is pretty simple. First, the doctors will attach a radioactive substance to some red blood cells. This substance is usually Technetium 99.

Then the red blood cells will be injected into your father-in-law, and he will be asked to lie under a gamma camera, which can detect the radiation being given off by the tagged red blood cells.

The information will be processed by a computer into a visual of your father-in-law's heart beating, which doctors can use to analyze his cardiac function.

And that's about all there is to a cardiac MUGA scan. It's pretty simple, relatively painless, and very detailed and accurate.

Best of luck!

By closerfan12 — On Aug 10, 2010

Does anybody know the procedure for a MUGA scan for the heart?

My father-in-law has been having cardiac trouble, and his doctor said he'd like him to do a MUGA -- can anybody tell me how this will go?

I'd like for him to have as much information as possible.

Thank you!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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