Ventilation/perfusion lung scintigraphy: what is still needed? A review considering technetium-99m-labeled macro-aggregates of albumin

Ann Nucl Med. 2009 Jan;23(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s12149-008-0187-3. Epub 2009 Feb 11.


Lung perfusion scintigraphy (LPS) with technetium-99m-labeled macro-aggregates of albumin (Tc-99m-MAA) is well established in the diagnostic of pulmonary embolism (PE). In the last decade, it was shown that single-photon emission computer tomography (SPECT) acquisition of LPS overcame static scintigraphy. Furthermore, there are rare indications for LPS, such as preoperative quantification of regional lung function prior to lung resection or transplantation, optimization of lung cancer radiation therapy, quantification of right-left shunt, planning of intra-arterial chemotherapy, and several rare indications in pediatrics. Moreover, LPS with Tc-99m-MAA is a safe method with low radiation exposure. PE can also be diagnosed by spiral computer tomography (CT), ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography, or pulmonary angiography (PA, former gold standard). The present review considers all these methods, especially spiral CT, and compares them with LPS with respect to sensitivity and specificity and gives an overview of established and newer publications. It shows that LPS with Tc-99m-MAA represents a diagnostic method of continuing value for PE. In comparison with spiral CT and/or PA, LPS is not to be defeated as mentioned also by the most actual Prospective Investigation of Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis (PIOPED) II reports. This applies in particular to chronic or recurring embolisms, whereas currently spiral CT may be of greater value for major or life-threatening embolisms. At present, LPS cannot be replaced by other methods in some applications, such as pediatrics or in the quantification of regional pulmonary function in a preoperative context or prior to radiation therapy. LPS still has a place in the diagnostics of PE and is irreplaceable in several rare indications as described earlier.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Isotope Labeling / methods
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / administration & dosage*
  • Technetium Tc 99m Aggregated Albumin / administration & dosage*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Technetium Tc 99m Aggregated Albumin