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.