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Nuclear Medicine

Hours: Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. On call: 4:30 p.m. - 7:00 a.m.

Nuclear Medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive material called a radiopharmaceutical or radiotracer to examine organ function, diagnose disease or locate infection.

Depending on the type of nuclear exam that is being conducted, the radiotracer may be introduced into the body by injection or administered orally. A specialized camera (gamma camera) detects the radiotracer and takes images of the bone, organ or tissue being tested. Nuclear medicine is different from x-ray or ultrasound exams because it determines the presence of disease based on physiological or biological changes rather than changes in anatomy.

Preparing for your Exam-Before, During, After

Before Your Nuclear Medicine Exam

  • Depending on the type of exam, there may specific instructions that need to be followed, which will be provided during scheduling of your procedure.  In general, patients should inform the physician of any medications you are currently taking and also any known allergies.
  • Many exams do not require fasting.  If an exam does require fasting, information will be provided during time of scheduling.

During Your Nuclear Medicine Exam

  • You will be asked to lie down on the examination table. A technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) into your arm or hand.  The radiotracer is then injected into the IV.  The radiotracer will travel through your body to the appropriate area undergoing the exam.  Depending on procedure, the exam can being immediately, a few hours later, or several days after receiving the radiotracer.
  • When the exam begins, the specialized camera will take a series of images.  The camera may rotate above and below you or scan the length of your body, or you may be asked to change positions in between images.
  • Exams vary in length of time. Depending on your specific procedure, exams may take 30 minutes to several hours and may be conducted over a few days.  Specific information will be provided depending on your exam type.

After your Nuclear Medicine Exam

  • A doctor from nuclear medicine will review the results and discuss them with your doctor. Your doctor will explain the results to you.

Safety Information

Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest imaging exams. Because the amount of radiotracer given to a patient is small, exposure to radiation is very low. The amount of radiation received from a nuclear medicine procedure is comparable to, and often times less than that of a routine x-ray. Our technologists are careful to tailor each dose to each patient using as little radiation as possible, without compromising image results. The radiotracer will lose its radioactivity usually within 24 hours, and pass through the body naturally.