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Nuclear Medicine Imaging

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear Medicine imaging is unique. It provides doctors with information about both the structure and the function of body organs. Unlike a diagnostic X-ray, where radiation is passed through the body, Nuclear Medicine tracers (radiopharmaceuticals) are taken internally by injection into an arm vein, by swallowing or inhalation. Radiopharmaceuticals are substances that are absorbed by specific organs, bones or tissues so that they may be imaged. In Nuclear Medicine imaging, these radiopharmaceuticals are detected by special types of cameras that work with computers to provide pictures and information about the structure and function of the body area being imaged.

Nuclear Medicine Treatments

In addition to their use in medical imaging, sometimes radioisotopes are used therapeutically in the treatment of hyperthyroidism, Graves Disease and thyroid cancer.

The amount of radiation in a typical Nuclear Medicine imaging procedure is comparable to that received during a diagnostic X-ray or CT scan, and the amount received in a typical treatment procedure is kept within safe limits. Most Nuclear Medicine procedures expose patients to about the same amount of radiation as they receive in a few months from natural radiation in the environment.

Your Nuclear Medicine Appointment

What to Expect

You will be positioned on an imaging table under a rectangular camera detector. The camera itself does not produce any radiation; it will be placed close to the organ of your body being imaged. During the test, you will be able to talk with a technologist who will be outside the imaging room monitoring your progress.

Nuclear Medicine exams are painless and have no side effects. You may resume your normal daily activities immediately after the test. If you were temporarily asked to stop taking any medication prior to the test, you may resume your normal medication schedule.

You will not need to undress for a Nuclear Medicine test, but may need to remove large jewelry or belt buckles. Dress comfortably.

The time required to perform an exam can vary between 30 minutes and 5 hours, or require multiple visits, depending upon the organ being imaged. You may have to wait 10-15 minutes after the exam for a radiologist to review the images before you leave.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please inform the technologist before the test.