Nuclear Medicine is a way to image the body using radioactive materials. Highly skilled professionals use special equipment and procedures to learn how certain organs function and to diagnose and determine the extent of diseases.
The radioactive material is introduced into your body by injection, inhalation or by swallowing. After the radiation has had time to travel to the body part of interest, the imaging or scan begins.
What can I expect from my nuclear medicine examination?
Nuclear medicine technologists use a special camera to detect the radiation emitted from your body. A computer is used to help process the information and to enhance image interpretation by the radiologist.
The body part being scanned will be positioned close to the camera. You will be asked to hold very still while the images are being made. There will be times during the scan when the technologist will allow you to move and relax. It may be necessary to make several images in different positions to get a complete and accurate study.
When your routine views are completed, the technologist will show your films to the radiologist, a doctor with special training in nuclear medicine. At this time, the radiologist will review your study and may ask for extra views or even X-rays to provide as much information as possible.
Be sure to tell us if you are pregnant or breast feeding.
How long does it take to perform the study?
The time it takes to perform a nuclear medicine study varies. Some procedures are more involved than others and naturally take longer to complete. The list below will show you what to expect.
Bone Scan: 45 minutes to one hour imaging time
Thyroid Scan: Approximately one hour
Liver Scan: Approximately one hour
Lung Scan: One hour
Kidney Scan: Approximately one hour
Parathyroid Scan: Approximately three hours
Hepatobiliary: At least two hours and possibly three hours if delayed films are made
MUGA scan: Approximately one-and-a-half hours
Bowel Imaging: Radioactive material is injected intravenously and continuous imaging is performed for 60 minutes
Preparing for the Procedure
Thyroid scan: You must be off thyroid medication for at least five weeks prior to your scan. In addition, you should not have had any X-ray examinations using contrast materials containing iodine for one month prior to scan.
Liver scan: Abdomen should not have barium from X-ray studies, otherwise no preparation is necessary.
Hepatobiliary: No food or liquids 4 hours before scan. Your abdomen should not have barium from X-ray studies.
I131 Therapy/Ablation: Consume only liquids the morning of the treatment.
Bowel Imaging: No laxatives or enemas 48 hours prior to study. Nothing to eat or drink six hours prior to study.
Nuclear Medicine Brochure