Frequently Asked Questions

What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the use of very small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and sometimes treat disease. Nuclear medicine is safe; it carries about the same risk as a common x-ray. Nuclear medicine is effective. It can help detect a wide variety of conditions such as stress fractures, cancer, heart disease, blood clots, thyroid disease, arthritis and infection.

How does nuclear medicine work?

The patient receives a radioactive material (isotope) in one of several ways: Intravenous injection, capsules, orally or inhaled. The isotope travels to target organs and tissues. Different isotopes are matched with different compounds that go to specific organs and tissues. The isotope gives off gamma rays, a form of radiation that can be seen only with special cameras. The cameras provide images of the target organs and tissues. These cameras do not give off any radiation. The images are studied by a nuclear medicine physician and their interpretation is forwarded to the ordering physician.

Am I radioactive after a nuclear medicine scan?

Yes. However, isotopes used are given in small amounts and lose their radioactivity quickly, usually within 24 hours. They will pass out of the body rapidly.

Do nuclear medicine scans hurt?

You will most likely receive the radioactive material through an injection, usually into an arm vein. Other than the discomfort of the needle stick, nuclear medicine scans are painless.

Will the radioactive material make me feel sick?

No. You will not feel any different after administration of the radioactive material.

Can anyone have a nuclear medicine scan?

Yes. However, special consideration must be given to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Are the people who perform nuclear medicine scans specially trained?

Yes. Your study will be performed by a nuclear medicine technologist. Technologists are licensed and registered to prepare and inject the isotopes, operate the cameras/probes and analyze the information collected. The information collected will then be studied by a board-certified nuclear medicine physician.