Today is test day… well not the type of test like I used to get in school, but a test of my heart health and one I definitely do not want to fail.
Part of the clinical trial protocol I am a part of is to monitor the known side effects of the new drug. One of those known side effects is “Hypertension”. Hypertension is basically high blood pressure, and can lead to all sorts of heart related issues. One of those issues is damage to the heart muscle so today’s test is to be sure that the heart is pumping normally and pushing the proper amount of blood throughout the body.
The test is pretty simple and is much like the CT scans I get. So what is a MUGA scan?
A MUGA scan is performed by attaching a radioactive substance, Technetium 99, to red blood cells, then injecting the red blood cells into the patient’s bloodstream. The patient is then placed under a special camera (a gamma camera), which is able to detect the low-level radiation being given off by the Technetium-labeled red cells. Since the red blood cells (including those that are radio-labeled) fill the cardiac chambers, the image produced by the gamma camera is essentially an outline of those chambers. With some fancy computer manipulation, the final product is a movie of the heart beating. A common clinical situation in which repeated MUGA scans are useful is in following a patient’s cardiac function during the delivery of chemotherapy for cancer. Some chemotherapeutic agents (adriamycin being the most notable) can be quite toxic to the heart muscle. By measuring the MUGA ejection fraction periodically during chemotherapy, oncologists can determine, on an ongoing basis, whether it is safe to continue with the therapy, or whether certain medications need to be stopped. The MUGA scan is accurate and reproducible enough to detect subtle, early changes in cardiac function that might easily be missed by other techniques. It is a highly effective, noninvasive means of monitoring one of the worst side effects of chemotherapy, and allowing that therapy to be delivered more safely and effectively than would otherwise be possible. Find out more here
From my personal view point the test is pretty boring, After a small amount of blood is taken from me I wait 20 minutes for the technician to mix the tech 99 with the blood so it can attach itself to my red blood cells. Then it’s on to the table and I am positioned under the camera. Red blood cells which have the Tech 99 attached to them are injected into my bloodstream and now I sit still under the camera for ten minutes while a motion picture is recorded of my heart on the screen.
I can see the screen and watch as the screen records the flow of blood. It looks like small points of light moving around and I can make out the shape of my heart valve as I watch. It’s not like an x-ray or sonogram, it is more like static on a tv screen but the points of light are very small and very clear to see. The points of light blink on the screen and slowly fade away. As more and more lights appear and slowly fade they all create an outline image of the heart valve.
The results will be checked by a specialist and will be sent to my oncologist to be checked. I will receive the results on my next visit this Wednesday September 2nd.
Hope I pass with an “A”