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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear MedicineNuclear Medicine is an imaging specialty that uses chemical compounds containing a small amount of radioactive substance, or tracer, to diagnose disease. These tracers are most commonly administered by injection into a vein in the arm, but may also be inhaled or swallowed. The radiation dosage for most Nuclear Medicine exams are equal to or less than the exposure from a chest X-ray. A special type of scanner, a gamma camera, is used to detect the tracer and transform its signal into images that provide information about anatomy and function of that organ. Side effects or reactions from tracers are rare. The camera does not produce any additional radiation, it only records images from the tracer. Therefore, multiple images can be taken without additional radiation exposure.

Once the tracer has been administered, images may begin immediately or you may be asked to wait a period of  a few minutes to a few hours or, in rare cases, a few days, depending on the type of test. This waiting period is necessary to give the tracer time to accumulate in the area of the body that is being imaged. Your particular test and the time involved will be explained to you prior to your scan.

A physician trained in nuclear medicine will interpret your scan and provide your doctor with a report on the finding of your test.

A few of the more common Nuclear Medicine tests and their prep include:

  • Cardiolite Stress Test: to evaluate blood supply to the heart muscle and measure heart function. The patient should have nothing to eat or drink at least 4 hours prior to the test, and no caffeine 12-24 hours prior. Your physician may withhold certain medications prior to your test.
  • Bone Scan: to evaluate orthopedic injuries, fractures, tumors, infection or unexplained bone pain. There is no prep for a bone scan.
  • HIDA Scan: to evaluate gallbladder function. The patient should have nothing to eat or drink 4 hours prior to the test. Your physician may withhold certain pain medications for 6 hours prior to the test. In most cases, an Ultrasound of the gallbladder must be obtained within 1 month prior to having this test.
  • Renal Scan: to evaluate kidney function and rule out obstruction. There is no prep for this test.
  • Gastric Emptying Study: to evaluate stomach motility. The patient should not eat or drink 4-6 hours prior to the test. The patient should let their physician know of allergies to eggs.
  • Thyroid Uptake and Scan: to evaluate thyroid function and show the structure of the gland. Your physician may withhold thyroid medications prior to the test. Patients receiving IV contrast agents for Diagnotic X-ray and CT must wait 6 weeks to allow the contrast to be completely cleared from the body before having this test.
  • Ventilation/Perfusion Lung Scan: to evaluate the flow of blood and movement of air into and out of the lungs as well as to determine the presence of blood clots. There is no prep for this test.
  • Parathyroid Imaging: to evaluate parathyroid gland function. There is no prep for this test.
  • Tagged WBC Scan: to evaluate possible infection, or to determine the extent of an existing infection. There is no prep for this test.