About Nuclear Medicine Scans
What Is a Nuclear Medicine Scan?
Nuclear medicine is a subspecialty within the field of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive material called a radiopharmaceutical or radiotracer to diagnose disease and other abnormalities within the body.
Depending on the type of nuclear medicine scan you are undergoing, the radiotracer is injected into a vein, swallowed by mouth or inhaled as a gas and eventually collects in the area of your body being scanned, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays.
This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera and/or probe. These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and other internal body parts.
Common types of nuclear medicine scans include:
- Bone scan
- Lung scan
- Kidney scan
- Gastric emptying
Physicians use nuclear imaging to visualize the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone or system of the body.
Nuclear medicine scans are performed to:
- Analyze kidney function
- Scan lungs for respiratory and blood flow problems
- Identify blockage in the gallbladder
- Evaluate bones for fracture, infection, arthritis and tumors
- Determine the presence or spread of cancer
- Identify bleeding into the bowel
- Locate the presence of infection
- Measure thyroid function to detect an overactive or under-active thyroid
- Investigate abnormalities in the brain
All of our equipment is maintained by highly trained service engineers and meets or exceeds the operating specifications set forth by the manufacturers and the federal government.
Because the doses of radiotracer administered are small, diagnostic nuclear medicine procedures result in minimal radiation exposure. Thus, the radiation risk is very low compared with the potential benefits.
Nuclear medicine has been used as a diagnostic imaging service for more than 5 decades, and there are no known long-term adverse effects from such low-dose exposure. Allergic reactions to radiopharmaceuticals may occur but are extremely rare.
Women should always inform their physician or radiology technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant or if they are breastfeeding their baby.