Follow these instructions to ensure a smooth appointment.
Prepare for Your Appointment
You may be asked to wear a gown during the exam or you may be allowed to wear your own clothing. Women should always inform their physician or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant or if they are breastfeeding. You should inform your physician and the technologist performing your exam of any medications you are taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements. You should also inform them if you have any allergies and about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
Jewelry and other metallic accessories should be left at home if possible, or removed prior to the exam because they may interfere with the procedure. You will receive specific instructions based on the type of scan you are undergoing. In some instances, certain medications or procedures may interfere with the examination ordered.
What to Expect
You will be positioned on an examination table. If necessary, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) catheter into a vein in your hand or arm. Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the dose of radiotracer is then injected intravenously, swallowed or inhaled as a gas.
It can take anywhere from several seconds to several days for the radiotracer to travel through your body and accumulate in the organ or area being studied. As a result, imaging may be done immediately, a few hours later, or even several days after you have received the radioactive material.
When it is time for the imaging to begin, the camera or scanner will take a series of images. The camera may rotate around you or it may stay in one position and you will be asked to change positions in between images. While the camera is taking pictures, you will need to remain still for brief periods of time. In some cases, the camera may move very close to your body. This is necessary to obtain the best quality images. If you are claustrophobic, you should inform the technologist before your exam begins. If a probe is used, this small hand-held device will be passed over the area of the body being studied to measure levels of radioactivity. Other nuclear medicine tests measure radioactivity levels in blood, urine or breath.
The length of time for nuclear medicine procedures varies greatly, depending on the type of exam. Actual scanning time for nuclear imaging exams can take from 20 minutes to several hours and may be conducted over several days. It is important that you remain still while the images are being recorded. Though nuclear imaging itself causes no pain, there may be some discomfort from having to remain still or to stay in one particular position during imaging.
Unless your physician tells you otherwise, you may resume your normal activities after your nuclear medicine scan.
How This Service Works
Millions of nuclear medicine tests are performed each year in the United States alone. Nuclear medicine tests are safe and painless. In a nuclear medicine procedure, the radioactive material is introduced into the body by injection, swallowing, or inhalation. Different tracers are used to study different parts of the body. Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest diagnostic imaging tests available. The amount of tracer used is carefully selected to provide the least amount of radiation exposure to the patient but ensure an accurate test. The amount of radiation from a nuclear medicine procedure is comparable to that received during a diagnostic x-ray.
A special camera (scintillation or gamma camera) is used to take pictures of your body. The camera does this by detecting the tracer in the organ, bone or tissue being imaged and then records this information on a computer screen or on film. Generally, nuclear medicine tests are not recommended for pregnant women because unborn babies have a greater sensitivity to radiation than children or adults.
Physicians use radionuclide imaging procedures to visualize the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone or system within the body.
For additional details concerning the above procedures, please visit www.radiologyinfo.org