Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT/CT)

 An innovative and groundbreaking imaging technology for diagnosing cancer has arrived at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.  Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) illustrates different functions in the body while combining CT (Computed Tomography), which shows detailed structural anatomy – into one scan. This state-of-the-art technology allows our medical team to visualize highly defined 3D images from the inside of the body.  This is important in determining the tumor’s function status and pinpoints the exact location, size, nature, and extent of the disease.  Common cancers that SPECT can detect are thyroid, endocrine, blood cancers, prostate, pancreatic and lung to name a few. SPECT provides our medical team with an accurate diagnosis and earlier detection of many cancers that are difficult to diagnose through traditional scans and medical examinations. 

How does it work? 

SPECT gives information about abnormal or cancerous cells in the body that are not available with other imaging methods such as an x-ray, CT, MRI or even PET.  SPECT scans measure biologic functions in the body that enables the image to show cellular activity combined with CT scan that shows anatomical details. Together, they provide valuable information that will assist our team with making a diagnosis and ultimately a better treatment plan. 

 What is the preparation for the SPECT? 

During a SPECT exam, imaging agents (radiopharmaceutical) are administered to the patient usually by injection. It then accumulates in the organ or area of the body where cancers may form. Radioactive emissions from the agents are detected by a special camera or imaging device called a gamma camera. This differs from x-ray or CT examinations where the radiation comes out of a machine and passes through the patient’s body. SPECT does not always require fasting, special diets, or medication. For most tests, you can continue your regular work schedule and lifestyle.  The whole process takes about 30 – 40 minutes to obtain the SPECT images.