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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear Medicine

Through Nuclear Medicine (NM), pictures of the inside of the body are obtained by measuring radiation emitted by radioactive material that has been swallowed or injected. Common nuclear medicine studies are bone scans used to detect subtle fractures or cancer that has spread to the skeletal system; gallbladder scans to evaluate for gallstones or gallbladder dysfunction; heart studies to look at how the walls of the heart function or to evaluate heart damage following a heart attack or episode of chest pain (angina); thyroid scans to determine whether the thyroid is over-active or under-active; and kidney (renal) scans to see how well the kidneys function.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nuclear Medicine:

How does a nuclear medicine study actually work?

Usually, tiny amounts of radioactive material are injected into the patient's vein through a standard IV. Pictures are then taken with a Gamma camera (essentially a sophisticated Geiger counter) that measures how much radioactivity the area being examined is registering, ultimately generating images that reflect important functional anatomy.

Is the radioactivity dangerous?

The amount of radiation the body is exposed to is very small. It is actually smaller than many types of regular x-rays.

How do I prepare for my gallbladder nuclear medicine study (a HIDA scan)?

Please do not eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the study.

How long does the radioactivity last?

Usually the radioactivity lasts in your body only a day or two. Most of it is washed out in the urine or through bowel movements.

Is there anything I should do to prepare for other nuclear medicine studies?

In general, no. If special preparation is necessary, we will explain it to you when you schedule your examination.

When will my doctor get the test results?

Our radiologists look at all of your pictures and compare this study with any previous examinations you may have had. Our typed report is available to your doctor usually within one day.


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