Nuclear Medicine Studies
These scans use very small amounts of radioactive substances to help physicians accurately diagnose or treat certain diseases. Different radioactive substances, or tracers, are used to identify diseases in different organs. After administration, the tracer travels to the organ being examined and emits "photons," rays of light which are invisible to the human eye, which are detected by a gamma camera. The gamma camera produces an image, which provides information about the anatomy and function of the organ. The nuclear medicine doctor interprets these images to help your physician determine the cause of the medical problem being studied.
Nuclear medicine studies are primarily used for diagnosis. However, some tracers can also be utilized to treat diseases like hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, or cancer which has spread to the bones.
There are a variety of diagnostic nuclear medicine tests, but they all involve three basic steps: administering the tracer, obtaining the images and interpreting the scan.
A certified nuclear medicine technologist administers the tracer and obtains the images for the nuclear medicine physician to interpret. The tracer can be administered in several ways, most commonly either injected into a vein or swallowed in capsule form. The type of tracer administered, the interval of time between administering the tracer, and acquiring images of the body, can vary widely depending on the study being performed. Some images are taken immediately after the tracer is given and others are taken several hours or days later.
During the imaging procedure
You will be asked to lie under a camera, which will be placed very close to your body. Multiple pictures from different angles may be taken depending on what study is being done. The camera does not produce any radiation. It only records the invisible rays of light energy which are coming from the tracer which was administered to you.
You will receive a small amount of radiation from the tracer, similar to routine x-ray procedures. This amount of radiation is quite small. The tracer decays away and is excreted out of the body through normal bodily functions.
As with all medical procedures, it is important to inform us if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant so that we can take appropriate measures to insure the safety of your baby.
Examples of common nuclear medicine scans include:
One of the most common nuclear medicine studies is a bone scan. Bone scans are frequently used to look for fractures or tumors or for other causes of bone pain. The tracer is injected into a vein, and images are taken 2-3 hours later. This time lag allows the tracer to accumulate in the bones. The images may take up to an hour to obtain.
If you have any additional questions about your nuclear medicine procedure, please contact our office.