Parathyroid Scan

What is it?

The Nuclear Medicine Parathyroid Scan is an exam to determine the function and health of the parathyroid gland which regulates calcium uptake in the body.

Nuclear Medicine scans are performed using very small amounts of radioactive material. The radioactive material is usually bound to other non-radioactive elements. These combined elements are called "radionuclide". The radionuclide emit energy called "photons". Radionuclide can be directed to many organs and systems in the body. Once a radionuclide is distributed in an organ or system, the photon energy is collected by a "Gamma Camera". The Gamma Camera detects the pattern of distribution of the radionuclide in the body and sends this information to a computer. The computer processes the information and displays the information in the form of a picture.

Nuclear Medicine exams differ from other x-ray procedures because the energy (x-rays and photons) come from different sources. X-ray energy is created by the x-ray tube and pass through the body. Another major difference is that Nuclear Medicine exams best demonstrate body physiology (system function), whereas x-rays show anatomical detail.

What will happen to me?

The Nuclear Medicine Technologist will give you a special radionuclide injection in the vein of your arm. The technologist will assist you to lay on a flat table and position the Gamma Camera over your neck and chest area to take the first picture. The Gamma Camera will be very close to you to obtain the best picture. After the first picture you will need to wait for one (1) hour before the second picture can be taken. This delay allows more time for the radionuclide to collect in the parathyroid gland.

How long will this test take?

It take about 15 minutes to prepare you for the exam after you arrive in the Nuclear Medicine Department. Once the first scan is started it will take 30 minutes to take the necessary pictures. Then you will need to wait for one hour before the second pictures can be taken. Once the second scan is started it will take another 30 minutes to complete. Additional pictures may be necessary as needed.

What will I feel, will it hurt?

You will not feel any effects from the radionuclide injection. You will need to lay flat on a table for the scan with your head extended backwards and a sponge under your shoulders. You will need to lay very still while the scan is being performed so that the best picture can be made. You will not feel any effects from the Gamma Camera. It does not create radiation, it only detects the energy coming from the collection of radioactivity in your parathyroid gland. The Gamma Camera is a large machine that collects the emitted photons from the radioactivity but produces very little sound. The Gamma Camera must be very close to you and will be moved over your body to obtain the pictures.

The radiation will totally disappear from your body in about 24 hours. The radiation exposure you receive from this exam is no more than from a routine x-ray procedure.

What will the test show?

The radionuclide collects in your parathyroid gland in different patterns depending on the function of the gland. If one area of the parathyroid receives more of the radionuclide than other areas this can be seen on the scan. Very slight changes in the parathyroid gland can be detected by the scan.

How do I get ready?

There is no preparations for this exam. Just before your exam, you should remove any necklaces from around your neck since these will interfere with the pictures.