Nuclear Medicine

Frequently Asked Questions About Nuclear Medicine

What is nuclear medicine imaging?

A nuclear medicine scan is a procedure in which radioactive materials are used to diagnose or treat disease. The radioactive isotope may be injected, ingested or inhaled, depending on the organ being scanned. Nuclear medicine is a very useful tool in the diagnosis of disorders affecting the bones, heart, lungs, kidneys, thyroid and gallbladder.

Do I need to do anything special before a nuclear medicine scan?

There are some exams that require a fasting period before the test; others may require you to stop taking certain medications. There are others that require no preparation at all. The doctor’s office that booked the exam for you will supply you with proper preparatory information.

Who will perform my nuclear medicine test?

A nuclear medicine technologist will perform your exam. Our technologists are highly trained and licensed by the State of Rhode Island in the field of nuclear medicine technology.

What should I expect during a nuclear medicine examination?

Many different types of organs can be imaged by nuclear medicine, and different scans require different procedures. Generally you will be brought into an exam room by a technologist and asked a few questions. Some exams require that you change into a patient gown. You may be asked to lie on an exam table to receive an injection in your arm or to swallow some capsules, such as in a thyroid test. After the radioactive material is administered, pictures are taken with a special camera known as a gamma camera. Sometimes the patient sits or lies next to the camera while the pictures are taken and other times they must lie on a table that passes over the camera. A gamma camera is placed over the area of interest. Scans vary in length, depending on the procedure.

Does a nuclear medicine exam hurt?

The only pain from nuclear medicine exams may be from the initial needle placement to inject the small amount of radioactivity. However, in certain nuclear medicine exams the radioactivity is administered orally and no needle is needed.

Is a nuclear medicine exam safe?

Very small amounts of radioactive materials are used (only enough to perform an exam). Side effects are very rare with the radiopharmaceuticals used in diagnostic nuclear medicine exams. Nuclear medicine procedures may not be appropriate for pregnant women or nursing mothers. Before your exam, please inform the technologist if you have any concerns.

When can I eat after the nuclear medicine test?

You may eat immediately afterwards.

How and when will I get the results of the nuclear medicine exam?

After the scan is finished, one of our board-certified radiologists will interpret the study and send a report to your doctor within 24 hours. Results will also be available on MyLifespan.