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Exercise MUGA

What is an Exercise MUGA?

An exercise MUGA is a test that measures how strong the heart is pumping at rest and during exercise. Ordinarily, when a person exercises the heart responds by pumping out more blood with each beat. To do this test, a special type of x-ray machine is used that takes a rapid series of pictures of the heart both at rest and during exercise. A radioactive substance called a tracer is given into an IV twice during the test, about 15 minutes apart. The tracer helps to create the pictures that are taken. The amount of radiation involved is small, about the same amount as two regular chest x-rays. There is a minimal amount of pain with this test. When the child comes to the clinic, a numbing cream can be placed on the skin so that the child does not have pain when the IV is placed. The injections do sting as they are given but the rest of the test is painless. The tracer is passed out the body through the urine within 24 hours after the test is completed. Complications from this test are very rare.

How long does the test take and how do I prepare for it?

The test takes about two hours to complete. If your child is scheduled for an exercise MUGA, you and your child will come to the Pediatric Cardiology Clinic at the scheduled time. Your child should wear tennis shoes and loose, comfortable clothes. It is best for children to eat a small breakfast or lunch at least two hours before having the test. Foods containing caffeine such coffee, tea, soft drinks or chocolate should be avoided for at least eight hours before the test. During the test, your child will be asked to lie flat on a table. The x-ray machine is moved close to the child's chest in order to take pictures. It will be important for the child to stay still during the test. After the first few pictures are taken, your child will be asked to pedal a special bicycle while lying on the table.

He or she will be asked to exercise as long as possible. A technician will monitor your child's heart rhythm and blood pressure throughout the test. The tests will end when the child is quite tired, or if symptoms occur. While lying on the table quietly the child is monitored for another 10 minutes as the heart recovers from the exercise. After the test is over, your child may leave the clinic and return home. The doctor will not have complete test results for about three days. At that time, parents will be called and results will be discussed over the phone.


2006: Information reviewed and approved by Laura Bell, RN, MSN, PNP Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Lynda Dettling RN, BSN.


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University of Michigan Health System Cardiovascular Center
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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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