Nuclear Imaging Test
What is nuclear imaging?
Nuclear imaging is a method of producing images by detecting radiation from
different parts of the body after a radioactive tracer material is administered. The
images are recorded on computer and on film. The nuclear imaging physician studies the
images to make a diagnosis.
Radioactive tracers used in nuclear medicine are, in most cases, injected into a vein.
But for some studies they may be given by mouth. These tracers are not dyes, and they have
no side effects. The amount of radiation a patient receives in a typical nuclear medicine
scan tends to be very low-- similar to the exposure received in a routine chest X-ray.
How is nuclear imaging different than other radiologic tests?
The main difference between nuclear imaging and other radiologic tests is that
nuclear imaging assesses how organs function, whereas other imaging methods assess
anatomy, or how the organs look.
The advantage of assessing the function of an organ is that it helps physicians plan
present or future treatments for the part of the body being evaluated.
Before the test
There are no general rules for preparing for the nuclear imaging test, since each type of
nuclear imaging test has its own unique requirements.
For example, one test may require you to eat or drink nothing-- except for water-- from
6 hours before the test until the test is complete. Another test may have no restrictions
If you are scheduled to have a nuclear imaging test and are not sure of how to prepare
for it, please contact the radiologist for precise instructions.
On the day of the test
Please do not bring valuables such as jewelry or credit cards to the hospital.
- The test is performed and the results are reviewed by registered and licensed
technologists and board-certified nuclear radiologists and physicians.
- You may be asked to change into a hospital gown.
During the test
You will lie on a padded examination table under gamma camera. You will be be positioned
under the camera for a set amount of time while the camera takes a series of pictures.
Because the pictures are taken at a constant rate, you will be asked to lie still.
The average imaging time is less than one hour, but some studies require more than one
hour and, in some cases, more than one visit.
A computer connected to the camera detects the radiation coming from the body organ
being examined, and forms a series of images. These images are interpreted by nuclear
medicine physicians who search for any abnormalities or disease and then make a diagnosis.
After the test
Generally, you can resume your usual activities and normal diet immediately.
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