When an abnormal protein called amyloid begins to build up within the heart tissue, it can weaken the heart. amyloid deposits can cause the muscles to stiffen which makes it more difficult to pump blood around the body. This scan takes a closer look at the extent of the amyloid build up and the effect it's having on the heart. Amyloid build up symptoms make include:

  • shortness of breath
  • an abnormal heartbeat
  • swollen ankles, feet and legs (oedema)

How the cardiac amyloidosis scan works

Nuclear medicine scans usually involve being injected with a very small amount of a radioactive substance - what we call, a tracer or radiotracer. This particular tracer is called 99mTc-DPD and us used to collect in certain areas of the heart muscle. While it's there, it gives off gamma rays which are then picked up by a special camera which allows us to diagnose what the issue may be. 

Preparing for the scan

You don't need to make any special preparations before the scan, so eat and drink as you normally would. You can also take all your usual medication.

During the break between the injection and the scan, it's important to drink plenty of fluids and empty your bladder regularly. This helps to wash out any excess tracer from your body, and help to make the images clearer. You can also eat normally during this break.

Just before we start the scan, we will ask you to empty your bladder.

What to expect from the scan

If you think you might be pregnant, or if you are currently breastfeeding please let the technologist know when you arrive. 

If everything is okay, the technologist will insert a small tube - called an intravenous line (IV) - into a small vein and inject a small amount of radioactive tracer into it. After the injection, there will be a three-hour break before we do the scan so the tracer has time to reach your heart. You can leave the department during this time and eat and drink normally.

When you have the scan, you will be asked to lie still on a scanning couch. When you're comfortable, we will start the scan. You will then notice part of the equipment (called a gamma camera), moving slowly above you, rotating slowly around your chest. As it does so, the camera is taking detailed pictures of your heart. This can take anything up to half an hour and you will have to try to lie very still throughout. 

After the scan

After the scan your doctor will check its quality while you wait, and the technologist will then let you go home. The radiation dose from this procedure is very small so there is no need to make any changes to your routine.

There are no side effects from the injection, so it will not make you feel sleepy or affect your ability to drive. Your report will be sent to the clinician who referred you to us within five working days.

Find out more about our nuclear scans

There are currently no related conditions associated with this test.

Getting to the department

The nuclear medicine department is located in Chelsea wing, Royal Brompton Hospital. Please enter the hospital through the main Sydney Street entrance.  

Chelsea Wing is connected to the main Sydney Street building by a bridge. It is a five-minute walk from reception to the department. You will need to take the lift to level three and follow the signs which will direct you to the nuclear medicine department.

If you need any help, please ask at main reception. They can arrange for a porter to help you to the department if needed.

The nuclear medicine department does not arrange transport. Your GP can arrange this if there are medical reasons, by calling the Royal Brompton Hospital transport department on 020 7351 8012.

For more information on reaching us, please see general transport information for Royal Brompton Hospital.