What Is It?
Nuclear medicine testing covers a number of different diagnostic tests, including scans of the liver, thyroid, heart, brain, gall bladder and bones. Unlike an x-ray procedure, which look at anatomy, nuclear medicine testing provides information about both the structure and function of an organ.
Nuclear medicine testing is safe and painless and may vary according to the type of test being administered and body part being studied. The amount of radiation in a nuclear medicine test is equivalent to that received during an X-ray.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, think you might be, or if you are breastfeeding. Radioactive materials should not be administered during pregnancy or while you are lactating.
In general, nuclear medicine tests are administered in three steps:
You will first be given a radioactive material either by mouth in a capsule form or through an injection in your arm. Other than the slight discomfort of the needle from an injection, nuclear medicine is totally painless. You may wait for the specified amount of time before the scan begins to allow the isotope to work its way through your system and concentrate in the area to be examined.
Next, the pictures are taken. Depending on the test, you may be asked to sit, stand or lie on a table for the scanner. It is very important to remain as still as possible during the test. Any movement may blur the image results and make them difficult to interpret.The length of time it takes to perform a nuclear medicine procedure depends on the type of test. More than likely, you won’t have to change and will be wearing your own clothes throughout the entire procedure.
Finally, the images are reviewed and analyzed. A radiologist will interpret your exam and send the results to your doctor as soon as possible.
You will be able to resume normal activity as soon as the test is finished. The isotopes remain in your body for a brief period but do not have any adverse effects and are eliminated through natural bodily functions. Drinking fluids will help eliminate the tracer more quickly.