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What is a MUGA heart scan?

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A MUGA heart scan is a nuclear imaging test that shows how well a person's heart is pumping, according to the American Heart Association. MUGA is short for multiple-gated acquisition, and the test is sometimes referred to as a radionuclide ventriculography or radionuclide angiography.

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A MUGA scan uses a special type of radioactive tracer combined with a camera to take pictures of a person's heart as it pumps blood, states the American Heart Association. The test is performed under a number of scenarios, such as when a person is resting or exercising and measures the exact amount of blood pumped with each heart contraction.

Doctors usually order MUGA heart scans if a person complains about chest pain, dizziness, tiredness, or trouble breathing, states the American Heart Association. The scan begins by injecting a patient with a radioactive tracer that binds to red blood cells. A special camera, called a gamma camera, is able to see the tracer and takes pictures while the heart is beating. The rate at which blood is ejected with each contraction is measured as a percentage. A normal rating on a MUGA heart scan is between 50 and 75 percent.

Usually, most people can go back to their normal routine after a MUGA heart scan, states the American Heart Association. However, patients should drink plenty of water to flush the radioactive material out of their bodies.

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