Imaging Services

Nuclear Medicine General Patient Information

Nuclear Medicine scans are painless procedures used to help diagnose diseases of the thyroid, bone, lung, liver gallbladder, or heart. A very small, safe amount of radioactive material in injected or swallowed, which then travels to the intended organ. A special gamma camera records this radioactivity in the form of images.

Nuclear medicine scans are performed by highly trained technologists. Assisted by computers, the nuclear medicine physician analyzes the results of the scan.

After injection the radionuclide acts like a "hitchhiker," traveling through the blood vessels to its target organ. Once there, the radionuclide hitchhiker emits gamma rays that are detected by the gamma camera and stored in a computer. Different radionuclides are used because each organ picks up its own specific material. You may first be asked a few questions by the technologist, then you will be taken to the camera room.

Your clothes can be left on. You will be asked to lie on the scanning table and positioned under the camera.

Most scans require many different positions. The camera may also be rotated.

You must lie perfectly still for each scan.

Scans usually take 20-30 minutes, but some can take up to an hour.

Tell your doctor if....

  1. You are pregnant.
  2. You have allergies to or take medicines.
  3. You had radiation therapy, x-rays, or surgery recently.

Afterwards, return to your normal daily activities. Nuclear medicine scans are safe; complications or side-effects are rare.