Preparing for Your Nuclear Medicine Scan
What should I expect BEFORE my nuclear medicine scan?
You will receive specific instructions based on the type of scan you are undergoing. In general, the following guidelines apply to all scans.
You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking as well as vitamins and herbal supplements and if you have any allergies. Also inform your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions. Upon checking into the Nuclear Medicine Department, you will be asked to provide a list of medications you are currently taking and also a list of known allergies.
Food and Drink
Most Nuclear Medicine procedures do not require patients to fast, however there are some that do. Specific instructions would be provided upon scheduling of these procedures.
When to Arrive
Please arrive 30 minutes prior to your appointment time.
What to Wear
You will wear your own clothing during the scan, therefore please wear something without metal clasps or zippers, as they will interfere with the study. Jewelry and other accessories should be left at home if possible, or removed prior to the scan as well.
For specific questions or information regarding your scheduled scan please contact the Nuclear Medicine Department at 336-716-3527.
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What will I experience DURING my nuclear medicine scan?
You will be positioned on an examination table. If necessary, a technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm.
Depending on the type of nuclear medicine scan you are undergoing, the dose of radiotracer is then injected intravenously, swallowed by mouth or inhaled as a gas.
It can take several seconds to several days for the radiotracer to travel through your body and accumulate in the organ or area being studied. As a result, imaging may be done immediately, a few hours later, or even several days after you have received the radioactive material.
When it is time for the imaging to begin, the gamma camera will take a series of images. The camera may rotate around you or it may stay in one position and you will be asked to change positions in between images. While the camera is taking pictures, you will need to remain still for brief periods of time. It is important that you remain still while the images are being recorded. Though nuclear imaging itself causes no pain, there may be some discomfort from having to remain still or to stay in one particular position during imaging.
If a probe is used, this small hand-held device will be passed over the area of the body being studied to measure levels of radioactivity. Other nuclear medicine tests measure radioactivity levels in blood, urine or breath.
Length of Scan
The length of time for nuclear medicine procedures varies greatly, depending on the type of scan. Actual scanning time for nuclear imaging scans can take from 20 minutes to several hours and may be conducted over several days. You will be given specific information depending on the type of study you are having.
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What should I expect AFTER my nuclear medicine scan?
When the scan is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist checks the images in case additional images are needed. If you had an IV line inserted for the procedure, it will be removed.
Through the natural process of radioactive decay, the small amount of radiotracer in your body will lose its radioactivity over time. In many cases, the radioactivity will dissipate over the first 24 hours following the test and pass out of your body through your urine or stool.
You may be instructed to take special precautions after urinating, to flush the toilet twice and to wash your hands thoroughly. You should also drink plenty of water to help flush the radioactive material out of your body.
Unless your physician tells you otherwise, you may resume your normal activities after your nuclear medicine scan.
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Nuclear Medicine Scan Results
All Nuclear Medicine scans are read by the Wake Forest University Health Science Radiologists trained in Nuclear Medicine imaging and dedicated to the specific area of interest for your study.
They will read your exam within 24 hours, and the results will be sent to the doctor that ordered your exam. Your doctor will then discuss the results with you and what they mean in relation to your health.