What is a MUGA scan?

A MUGA scan checks how well your child's heart is pumping. MUGA is short for MUltiple Gated Acquisition.

During a MUGA scan, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into your child's blood. This material can be seen very clearly with a special camera. The pictures taken by the camera show exactly how the blood is moving through your child's heart.

The amount of radioactive material used in a MUGA scan is very small. It will not harm your child.

MUGA scans are done at a hospital

MUGA scans take place in the Nuclear Medicine department of the hospital. A nuclear medicine technologist gives the test. The technologist is specially trained to give tests on the nuclear medicine machines in the hospital.

This test is done in 2 parts. It will take about 2 hours to complete.

Write down the date and time of your child's MUGA scan here:


Preparing for a MUGA scan

Use the information from this page to explain to your child what will happen during the test, in language your child can understand.

To do a MUGA scan, your child needs to be able to stay still while the pictures are taken. If your child can lie quietly for about 30 minutes while we take the pictures, no preparation is needed. If your child cannot stay still that long, he may need to have sedation.

MUGA scan with sedation

Some children who are very young or active cannot lie still for 30 minutes. These children may need a special "sleep medicine" called a sedative. A sedative will help your child sleep and stay still during the scan.

What your child can eat and drink before the sleep medicine (sedation or general anaesthetic)

Time before procedure

What you need to know

Midnight before the procedure

No more solid food. This also means no gum or candy.

Your child can still drink liquids such as milk, orange juice, and clear liquids. Clear liquids are anything you can see through, such as apple juice, ginger ale, or water.

Your child can also eat Jell-O or popsicles.

6 hours

No more milk, formula, or liquids you cannot see through, such as milk, orange juice, and cola.

4 hours

Stop breastfeeding your baby.

2 hours

No more clear liquids. This means no more apple juice, water, ginger ale, Jell-O, or popsicles.

If you were given more instructions about eating and drinking, write them down here:

When your child's scan is scheduled, ask the technologist when your child must stop eating and drinking.

What happens during a MUGA scan

The MUGA scan has 2 parts. The nuclear medicine technologist will explain each part of the test to you and your child.

First part of a MUGA scan: drawing blood

The first part of the scan will take about 30 minutes. The technologist will use a needle to take a small amount of blood from your child. Usually, the technologist will leave an intravenous (IV) tube taped to your child's arm for the second part of the test. An IV is a narrow tube that gives liquids directly into your child's vein.

After the blood is taken, you and your child can leave the Nuclear Medicine room. The technologist will tell you what time to come back. While you are waiting, the technologist will mix a small amount of radioactive material into your child's blood for the second part of the test.

Second part of a MUGA test: putting blood and radioactive material back into the body

The second part of the MUGA test is usually 1 hour later.

The technologist will give your child's own blood back through the IV tube or a needle. This blood has a small amount of radioactive material mixed into it. It is safe and will not make your child feel sick or dizzy.

The technologist will then attach 3 electrodes to your child's chest. Electrodes are sticky pads that connect with wires to the electrocardiogram (ECG) machine. The ECG records your child's heartbeat while the Nuclear Medicine camera is taking pictures of your child's heart.

The test is safe and does not hurt. Your child will need to lie still for about 30 minutes. He can watch a movie while the pictures are taken.

After the MUGA scan

If your child was not given a sedative, he can eat and drink as usual. If your child was given a sedative for the test, he will need some time to become fully awake again. The nurse who gave the sedative will tell you what you need to do and how long that might take.

Getting the results of the MUGA scan

Your child's cardiologist (heart doctor) will give you the test results and tell you what they mean. It will be a few days before the doctor gets the test results.

Key points

  • A MUGA scan is a test that uses radioactive material to help take pictures of the blood flowing through the heart.
  • The preparation and the scan are done in the hospital. The test takes about 2 1/2 hours in total to do.
  • Because a child must stay still for about 30 minutes, some children need to be sedated for the test.
  • The scan does not hurt, but children will have to get a needle.
  • The amount of radioactive material used in the scan is very small and will not harm your child.

Maria Green, MRT (N)
Jennifer Russell, MD, FRCPC
Carrie Heffernan, RN, BScN, MN
Jennifer Kilburn, BScN, MN


At SickKids:

MUGA scans take place in the Nuclear Medicine department of the hospital, on the 2nd floor of the Elm Wing.