Nuclear Medicine is a safe, painless process used to image the body and treat disease. Nuclear Medicine is unique in that it is extremely sensitive to abnormalities in an organ’s structure or its function.
Nuclear Medicine imaging offers early detection and is used in the diagnosis, management and treatment of serious disease, which may result in a more successful prognosis.
Nuclear Medicine uses small amounts of radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals. These substances are attracted to specific organs, bones or tissues, which in turn are detected by special types of cameras. The amount of radiation is comparable to that received during a diagnostic x-ray.
Because nuclear imaging can review more detailed information than other examinations, it enables physicians to diagnose and treat certain diseases and disorders at a very early stage of development.
Preparation differs, depending upon the area of the body that is being examined. In most cases, food and liquids are not restricted.
You may be instructed not to eat foods or take medications that are high in iodine, such as seafood, table salt or cough medicine for at least three to four days before thyroid studies.
If you are pregnant or nursing, please inform your physician before the exam is scheduled.
Depending on the part of the body to be imaged, you will receive either an intravenous injection or swallow a capsule that contains a small amount of radioactive compound.
You may then have a waiting period ranging typically from 20 minutes to three hours, as this compound travels through the body and emits gamma rays. Occasionally, this waiting period may be one or more days.
The time will vary depending on the type of study performed. You should plan on dedicating a good portion of the day to completing your study. You may also be asked to return for additional pictures on the same day or on a different day. This information will be given to you when you make your appointment.
The amount of radiation that a person receives from a nuclear imaging exam is usually less than the amount of radiation received from the diagnostic x-rays. Also, the composite quickly loses most of its radioactivity and leaves the body within a few hours.
The procedure, the equipment and the facility which the exam takes place are required to meet strict safety standards regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In addition, Community Medical Center has a full-time radiation safety officer to ensure full compliance with all regulations. While a generally safe procedure, it does involve radiation. As such, the benefits of having it performed should outweigh any associated radiation risks.
Nuclear medicine procedures are very safe. A patient only receives an extremely small amount of tracer, just enough to provide sufficient diagnostic information. In fact, the amount of radiation in a nuclear medicine test is no more than that received during an x-ray. Most tracers are passed quickly from the body through normal bodily functions. Drinking plenty of water or liquids after an examination will help to eliminate the tracer more quickly.
Generally, nuclear medicine studies are not recommended for pregnant women. Some nuclear medicine studies can safely be performed during pregnancy, when medically indicated and with no risk to the fetus - especially lung scans for pulmonary embolus. You and your physician must weigh the value of the information to be gained versus the affect on the unborn child.
Community Medical Center has a medical physicist on staff available to consult with you or your doctor about exposure to radioisotopes.
It is best to discontinue nursing for a time. How long will depend of the radiopharmaceutical administered and can vary from 24 hours or longer. It is important to inform the technologist if you are breast-feeding.
Depending on the study being performed, the patient is injected with or takes a capsule containing the radiopharmaceutical.
After a specific period of time, the patient will be placed on an exam table and imaging will begin. Scan time will vary from several minutes up to an hour. During this time it is important that the patient lies absolutely still.
The only discomfort associated with the procedure, which usually takes from one-half hour to one hour, is lying still in the same position for this time. After the examination is interpreted by the radiologist, a written report will be sent to your physician.
Many different types of nuclear medicine tests are performed each day. Some of the more frequently performed procedures include:
Other routine nuclear medicine procedures include gallium scans to evaluate infection and certain types of tumors, gastrointestinal bleeding scans and brain scans.
Yes. Nuclear medicine procedures are commonly performed on children. These procedures are generally used to evaluate bone pain, injuries, infection or kidney and bladder functions. The tracer dosage is adjusted according to the child’s size. Sedation is sometimes required, depending on the child and type of test being given.
A technologist specially trained in the practice of nuclear medicine procedures performs the test by administering the tracer, positioning the patient under the camera and operating the equipment used in the test. The nuclear medicine technologist is specially trained in physics and chemistry and is licensed by the State of New Jersey to perform nuclear medicine procedures and inject radioisotopes.
A diagnosis is usually made with one nuclear medicine examination, but it may be necessary to compare or confirm the test results with an other diagnostic study or studies to ensure the most accurate and conclusive understanding of the patient’s medical problem.
Patients should be able to resume normal daily activities right after the test. If patients were asked to temporarily stop taking any medication prior to the test or if they changed the usual dosage because of the test, patients should ask their doctor when and if they should resume taking their medication.