What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine specialists use safe, painless, and cost effective techniques to image the body and treat disease. Nuclear medicine imaging is unique, because it provides doctors with information about both structure and function. It is a way to gather information that would otherwise be unavailable or require surgery. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progress of a disease-long before many medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic test. Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive materials (radio-pharmaceuticals) to diagnose and treat disease.

How Do I Prepare for the Test?

Preparation for a Nuclear Medicine exam varies dependent on which test your physician has ordered. Some test requires that you do not eat 6 hours prior to the test but others allow normal or light diet. Your ordering doctor should give you instructions and you can always call the nuclear medicine department if you have questions at (540) 932-4440 or (540) 332-4440. Bring a list of all medications you are currently taking.

What Happens During a Nuclear Medicine Scan?

The technologist will place an IV in your arm prior to your examination for most studies but a few such as a gastric empty or thyroid scan requires the ingestion of a radioactive material.

During the examination, you will be lying on a comfortable patient table (usually on your back). This table will then slowly move you through the opening of the examination unit called the gantry or a camera will be positioned over the body part of interest. The technologist will leave the room, but is in full view and communication with you through the observation window in the adjoining room. The scanner comes very close to your body but does not touch you. It is important for you to lie very still as the camera will be acquiring images at all times.

Each nuclear medicine scan is tailored to each patient’s needs; however, in general, examinations last approximately one-two hours.

What Happens After the Nuclear Medicine Scan?

There are no restrictions after having a diagnostic nuclear medicine scan and can go about your normal activities. To help eliminate the radioisotope from your body, drink plenty of decaffeinated or non-alcoholic beverages. Water and juices work well.

Rapid results are essential not only for your peace-of-mind, but also for your physician to begin planning your treatment immediately. A radiologist, who is a physician experienced in Nuclear Medicine and other radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a report of the diagnosis to your physician. Your physician will discuss the results with you and explain what they mean in relation to your health.