Thumbnail image of: Respiratory System: Illustration

Lung Scan

What is a lung scan?

A lung scan is a test to look at your lungs using a chemical called a radioactive tracer and a scanner. It is used to see how well blood or air flows through the lungs.

When is it used?

A lung scan may be done to:

  • Diagnose or locate a blood clot in your lung
  • Diagnose high blood pressure in your lungs
  • Examine a buildup of fluid in the airways of your lungs
  • See how well treatment is working

How do I prepare for a lung scan?

  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Some products may increase your risk of side effects. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Tell your provider if you think you might be pregnant or you have been trying to get pregnant.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

There are 2 types of lung scans:

  • For one type, a small amount of the tracer is injected into a vein in your hand or arm. As the tracer moves through your bloodstream, a camera records how the blood flows into your lungs. This shows if any parts of the lung are not getting enough blood.
  • For the other type, you will breathe in a small amount of the tracer mixed with oxygen through a face mask. A camera records where the air is going inside your lungs. It may show parts of the lung that are not getting enough air or parts that are getting too much air.

What happens after the procedure?

If you do have a blood clot in your lung, you may need to stay in the hospital for treatment.

The small amount of radioactivity from the tracer is not dangerous. You should drink plenty of fluids to help your body get rid of the tracer. It will be completely gone from your body within hours to days.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. You could have an allergic reaction to the tracer. Ask your healthcare provider how this risk applies to you.

The radioactive material given for this scan may not be safe if you are pregnant or if you are breast-feeding an infant. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not have lung scans.

Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-06
Last reviewed: 2014-12-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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