How does Nuclear Medicine work?
Nuclear medicine uses radioactive substances to image the body and treat the disease. In the past, exploratory surgery was the only way to find out what may be causing problems. Now, non-invasive imaging in Nuclear Medicine produces three-dimensional images of tissue and bone, allowing doctors a way to peek inside the body to find disease or damage as early and accurately as possible.
What can I expect during a Nuclear Medicine procedure?
During a Nuclear Medicine procedure, a technician injects a small amount of radioactive dye into the IV where it is tracked by a special camera. A computer then sends the data to a screen that produces realistic images of the tissue or bone. When this radiation exits the body, a special camera system is used to detect the gamma rays and then create images which are interpreted by specialists. A written report is sent to your physician for review.
Most patients undergo a Nuclear Medicine examination because their primary care physician has recommended it. Some common Nuclear Medicine testing includes assessing the blood flow to the heart and evaluating the bones, skeletal system or function of a patient’s gallbladder. Usually, no special preparation is needed for a Nuclear Medicine examination. However, if the procedure involves evaluation of the stomach, you may have to fast before the test. If the procedure involves evaluation of the kidneys, you may need to drink plenty of water before the exam.
Preparation for Your Examination
Your doctor or imaging services will inform you of specific directions for preparation of a nuclear medicine test.
- Bring a list of your medications to your appointment.
- You may be asked to complete a questionnaire depending on which exam you are having done.
- Inform your physician or technologist if you believe there is a chance of pregnancy.
Nuclear medicine is useful for detecting:
- Irregular or inadequate blood flow to various tissues
- Blood cell disorders and inadequate functioning of organs, such as thyroid and pulmonary function deficiencies
- The presence or spread of cancer in various parts of the body
- Urinary tract obstruction
- Sites for biopsy
- Abnormalities in the brain, such as seizures, memory loss and abnormalities in blood flow