A Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography or the acronym SPECT is a nuclear imaging technique using gamma rays (electromagnetic radiation of high frequencies, a higher energy version of X-rays which are 2D). SPECT has the ability to provide true 3D information for the patient to view by presenting accurate localization of his or her diagnosis. The main ideas behind SPECT is that it allows for the individuals and medical professionals to visually identify functional brain imaging and captures the precise blood-flow information using standard knowledge of a healthy brain structure.
In respect to addiction treatment, medical professionals draw data from the scans that are produced in order to recommend the most effective treatments as well as further ascertain other possible brain-based disorders that can affect an individual’s addiction. This all makes way for scientific documentation and the outcome is the capability of demonstrating what works and does not work while an addict is going through the process of rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol.
While many scanning machines produce images of the structures inside your body, SPECT scanning (which is considered much more sensitive than MRI or CT scans in detecting any brain injuries) looks directly at the cerebral blood flow as well as indirectly monitoring brain activity or brain metabolism.
In order to highlight the brains functions a radiolabeled compound is injected intravenously into the patient. This compound, also known as a “tracer” is generally made up of iodine-123, technetium- 99m, xenon-133 thallium-201, and fluorine-18; all these agents are radioactive forms of natural elements that are accepted by certain receptors in the brain and give off “gamma rays”. There is a special “gamma” camera that contains crystals; these crystals assist in “picking up” the isotopes (injected radioactive material) and following the injected compound as it travels through the blood stream to identify the level of blood flow to tissues and organs. The scanning machine or computer collects all the data emitted from the “gamma rays” translating them into two-dimensional cross-sections (cross-sections are then added back together to form a 3D image of the patient’s brain).
The purpose of undergoing these SPECT scans is that all the information provided by computerized data during scanning can show evidence of medical disorders that commonly add to chemical dependence.
Depression and certain brain injuries are known to affect chemical dependency and these disorders or injuries are detectable and demonstrated through SPECT scans, allowing medical professionals the ability to survey these brain malfunctions. This also makes prevention of relapse behaviors a possibility due to the patterns that may be visible in data gathered from a patients scan.
SPECT scans are also used in a therapeutic manner; permitting an individual in recovery the ability to have physical depiction of their disease and addiction. This representation may have an effect on removing any stigma and self-loathing that is a circumstance of addiction. The patient’s family may also maintain a better understanding of how addiction can truly function as a brain illness. The impression is that patients viewing an actual image of how their disease manifests gives them the capability of seeing any progress and or impact of the alcohol and drug treatment on the functioning of their brain. All these elements work to further support the addict while enduring the rehabilitation process lending a greater willingness to adhere to the suggested guidance while in treatment.
SPECT scanning is performed by specially qualified nuclear technologists. Globally there are many rehab facilities (inpatient and outpatient) that are currently offering the SPECT scanning in contribution to an already formulated regimen of 12-step programming and as well as other necessary therapy or counseling.