Nuclear study is an imaging technique that uses trace amounts of a radioactive substance and special cameras to look at the structure and function of an organ, tissue or system of the body.
A nuclear study may sound scary, but it’s actually very safe. We use a small amount of radiation, and all of our equipment meets or exceeds safety regulations.
Nuclear studies, also called nuclear scans, look beyond the appearance and structure of your organs to provide detailed images that help doctors check whether those organs are working properly. Nuclear studies help detect medical problems in their earliest stages. The information gained from a scan can help us determine the source of your symptoms and make decisions about the best way to treat you.
Heart nuclear scans show:
- How blood is flowing to the heart
- Which areas of your heart may be damaged
- How well your heart pumps blood to the rest of your body
- If there is any abnormal movement of blood between your heart’s chambers (ventricles)
Lung nuclear scans show:
- If a clot is preventing blood flow to part of the lung (pulmonary embolism)
- Areas of the lung that may not be receiving enough blood
- Which parts of a diseased lung need to be surgically removed
Kidney nuclear scans show:
- Kidney function
- How blood is flowing in the arteries near your kidneys
Nuclear Study: What to Expect
Unlike other imaging techniques, which place small amounts of radiation outside your body, nuclear scans put trace amounts of radiation inside your body to help create pictures of your tissues and organs. There are no known long-term side effects from such a low dose exposure.
Here’s how a nuclear scan works:
- Shortly before the procedure, we will give you a combination of medication and trace amount of radioactive substance called a radiotracer. Depending on the part of the body we are scanning, we will give you the radiotracer either by injection or inhalation.
- Once inside your body, medication in the radiotracer helps it travel to the part of the body we are scanning.
- The radioactive substance emits energy that we can detect using a special camera.
- A highly trained technologist works the camera and a special computer to produce images that show how your organs are functioning.
- The radioactive substance passes through your urine or stool (feces) a few days after the procedure.
Nuclear Study at Wake Forest Baptist
Nuclear studies at Wake Forest Baptist combine the expertise of our radiology team with registered technicians and sonographers who provide timely and accurate nuclear scans. Our team of diagnostic radiologists includes experts in nuclear medicine. Our technicians and sonographers are registered or certified in their field of practice and have received special training in nuclear study.