Medical Library

Medical Library

Nuclear Medicine

What Is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear medicine is a subspecialty within the field of radiology. It comprises diagnostic examinations that result in images of body anatomy and function. The images are developed based on the detection of energy emitted from a radioactive substance given to the patient, either intravenously or by mouth. Generally, radiation to the patient is similar to that resulting from standard x-ray examinations.

Common uses of the procedure?
Nuclear medicine images provide very detailed imaging of certain organs and can assist the physician in diagnosing diseases. Tumors, infection and other disorders can be detected by evaluating organ function. Specifically, nuclear medicine can be used to: 
  • Analyze kidney function 
  • Image blood flow and function of the heart 
  • Scan lungs for respiratory and blood-flow problems 
  • Identify blockage of the gallbladder 
  • Evaluate bones for fracture, infection, arthritis or tumor 
  • Determine the presence or spread of cancer 
  • Identify bleeding into the bowel 
  • Locate the presence of infection 
  • Measure thyroid function to detect an overactive or under-active thyroid 
Patient Preparation For Nuclear Medicine Scans?
Usually, no special preparation is needed for a nuclear medicine examination. However, if the procedure involves evaluation of the stomach, you may have to skip a meal before the test. If the procedure involves evaluation of the kidneys, you may need to drink plenty of water before the test. 

Preparation Is Required Before The Following Nuclear Medicine Scans:
  • Hepatobiliary (PIPIDA,HIDA) Scan – This scan evaluates the function of your gallbladder. You must fast (nothing to eat or drink) at least 4 hours before the exam. Do not take any type of narcotics, such as Demerol, Vicodin, or Morphine, the day of your HIDA scan.
  •  I123 Thyroid Scan – This is a 2 day test that aids in determining the function of the thyroid. You will be asked to discontinue any thyroid medicine for 2 weeks prior to your scheduled exam date. It is also necessary that you have not had any type of radiology exams requiring contrast injections two weeks prior to you scheduled thyroid scan.
  • Gallium Scan – This is a 3 to 4 day test used to find infection and tumors. Instructions will be given to you by the technologist at the time of your first injection. Scans will be performed just after the injection on the first day of your appointment, and then again in 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours. Each scan takes approximately 30 minutes.
  • Meckels Scan – This scan help to diagnose internal bleeding. You must fast (nothing to eat or drink) 8 hours prior to your exam or after midnight the night before your test. The test itself will last approximately 1 hour.
  • Bone Scan – This scan is used to detect bone abnormalities, such as infection, fractures, arthritis, or cancer. It is very important that you have not completed any radiology tests that required you to drink Barium at least 4 days before the Nuclear Medicine Bone Scan. 
  • Gastric Emptying Scan – This test is used to determine the rate at which food leaves your stomach. You must fast (nothing to eat or drink) 8 hours prior to your exam or after midnight the night before your test.
  • Octreotide Scan – This study helps detect the presence of any tumor with neuro-peptide receptors in your body. Fasting is not required; however you will need to take a mild laxative the night before your scan.
No Preparation Is Required For The Following Nuclear Medicine Scans:
  • Liver/spleen scan
  • Lung scan
  • Technesium thyroid scan
  • Renal scan
  • Brain scan



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