Nuclear medicine exams use very small amounts of radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals or tracers, to monitor, diagnose and treat medical conditions within the body. The nuclear medicine camera takes pictures to show how and where the tracer travels through your body and it measures the amount of tracer absorbed. These images show the function, size and shape of an organ, tissue, bone or body system.
Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest diagnostic exams available. Radiopharmaceuticals are formulated and ordered specifically for each patient and exam requested, resulting in minimal radiation exposure. The radiation risk is very low compared with the potential benefits.
Please arrive 15 minutes early to complete registration.
You will receive specific preparation instructions for your exam. In general, the following guidelines apply to all exams:
Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam, the imaging portion of the procedure varies in length of time - from 20 minutes to a few hours and it may be repeated for several days.
The first step in most nuclear medicine exams is administration of the tracer. Depending on the type of exam, tracer will be injected or swallowed. The tracer can take seconds, hours or days to travel through your body and collect in the area being studied. Consequently, the next step of the exam - the imaging portion - may be performed immediately, a few hours later or a few days after you receive the tracer.
For the imaging portion, or scan, you may be asked to change into a gown. You will lie on a cushioned exam table, where you will be asked to remain as still as possible to ensure the best quality images. To capture the images, the camera may be in close proximity to you, but will not completely surround you. There is no radiation emitted from the camera.
Following your exam, one of our board-certified radiologists will interpret your images. The findings will be sent to your healthcare provider, who will then contact you to discuss the results.
Unless directed otherwise, you may drive, resume your normal diet, exercise and take all prescribed medications immediately following your exam. The tracer remains in your body for a short time and is cleared through natural bodily functions. Drinking plenty of fluids will help flush it through your system more quickly.
Some exams may require you to follow extra precautions after your exam. The nuclear medicine technologist will give you specific instructions to follow at the time of your exam.
For more information:
Download the patient brochure
Dr. Kevin Gustafson reviews a nuclear medicine exam.