What is it?

This test is used to map any potential abnormalities in lung function. We usually conduct this test to evidence a lung embolism (blood clot in a blood vessel in the lung). Sometimes, this test is requested as preparation for lung surgery, to obtain a good image of the healthy parts of the lungs. Ventilation scintigraphy allows for the visualisation of the distribution of the inhaled air in the lungs. Perfusion scintigraphy visualises the blood flow in the lungs. In most cases, a combination of both tests is done.

Test procedure

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Are you pregnant or do you think you may be pregnant? Or are you breastfeeding? Please tell the physician before the injection. The test will not be performed if you are pregnant. If you are not sure whether you are pregnant or not, the test will be postponed until you are certain.

If you are breastfeeding, make sure to discuss this with the physician before the test. You will receive additional instructions about how to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure to your child.

Preparation for the test

No specific preparation is required. Fasting is not required and any medication may be taken as on other days.

Ventilation scan

For a lung ventilation scan, a mixture of air and a slightly radioactive substance is inhaled. You will be asked to take deep breaths in and out through a face mask over a period of five minutes. It is important to breathe in and out through the mouth and not through the nose. Immediately after that, recordings are made for approximately 15-20 minutes.

Perfusion scan

For a lung perfusion scan, a small quantity of radioactive material is administered intravenously. It is good to continue breathing using deep breaths in and out. After that, recordings are made once more for approximately 15-20 minutes. If you are an outpatient, you can resume your normal activities afterward.

Safety and radiation


There are essentially no side effects: the injected product causes no abnormal sensations and only in very rare cases causes (very mild) allergic reactions. The injected radioactive material does constitute a dose of radiation, but it is very small (about as much as for a regular CT scan).

After a few hours, the product will have disappeared completely from the body. No specific measures need to be taken.


We prepare a report of the test. That report and the images are digitally available to the physician who requested the test.

Centres and specialist areas

Nuclear Medicine

Latest publication date: 05/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Van Den Bossche Bieke