Nuclear Medicine is a subspecialty within the field of radiology. It includes
diagnostic imaging studies that demonstrate body anatomy and function.
The images are based on the distribution of a radioactive substance given
to the patient, either intravenously, by mouth or inhaled into the lungs.
Generally, radiation to the patient is similar to that resulting from
standard x-ray examinations. Nuclear medicine images can assist the physician
in diagnosing diseases. Tumors, infections and other disorders can be
diagnosed by evaluation organ function.
What to Expect
A radiopharmaceutical agent, or tracer, is usually administered into a
vein. Depending on the type of exam that is being performed, the imaging
will be done either immediately, a few hours later, or even several days
after the injection.
Imaging time varies, generally ranging from 20-45 minutes. During this
time, you will be asked to lie under a gamma camera that is placed close
to your body. The camera does not emit radiation but simply records the
radiation emitted from the tracer that was administered. While the images
are being obtained, you must remain as still as possible and refrain from
talking in an effort to avoid blurry images. Some procedures require multiple
images taken over a period of time. The radioactive tracer decays over
time and is eliminated through normal body functions.
An NHRA physician with expertise in nuclear medicine interprets these
images and sends a report of findings to your doctor. Although nuclear
medicine studies are used primarily for diagnosis, tracers also can be
used to treat some disease, including hyperthyroidism and certain cancers.
Your physician will receive the results of the exam, discuss the findings
with you and prescribe treatment as necessary.