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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities within the body. CVMC utilizes the latest nuclear medicine equipment available, and in fact was the third location in the United States to have the newest and most advanced nuclear medicine system from Phililps installed.

Nuclear medicine or radionuclide imaging procedures are noninvasive and usually painless medical tests that help physicians diagnose medical conditions. These imaging scans use radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers.

Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the radiotracer is either injected into a vein, swallowed or inhaled as a gas and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of your body being examined, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays. This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera. These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and tissues.

Physicians use radionuclide imaging procedures to visualize the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone or system of the body.

Nuclear medicine imaging scans are performed to:

  • analyze kidney function
  • visualize heart blood flow and function (such as a myocardial perfusion scan)
  • scan lungs for respiratory and blood flow problems
  • identify inflammation in the gallbladder
  • evaluate bones for fractures, infection, arthritis and tumors
  • determine the presence or spread of cancer in various parts of the body
  • identify bleeding into the bowel
  • locate the presence of infection
  • measure thyroid function to detect an overactive or underactive thyroid
  • investigate abnormalities in the brain, such as seizures, memory loss and abnormalities in blood flow
  • localize the lymph nodes before surgery in patients with breast cancer or melanoma

What to do to prepare for your nuclear medicine exam:

You may be asked to wear a gown during the exam or you may be allowed to wear your own clothing.

Women should always inform their physician or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant or if they are breastfeeding their baby. You should inform your physician and the technologist performing your exam of any medications you are taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements. You should also inform them if you have any allergies and about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
Jewelry and other metallic accessories should be left at home if possible, or removed prior to the exam because they may interfere with the procedure.

You will receive specific instructions based on the type of scan you are undergoing.

If you will be having a thyroid scan at CVMC, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Nothing by mouth for 6 hours prior to the examination. You will receive a capsule in the morning and return 5-6 hours later that day for 15 minutes of scanning as well as the next morning for an additional scanning of approximately 1 hour.
  • You should be off thyroid medications for 6-8 weeks if possible, and any other iodine medication you may be taking.
  • You should not have had an x-ray examination which required contrast media for 6-8 weeks prior to this examination.