Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine includes many different procedures, but is a term that many patients are unfamiliar with. If you need a nuclear medicine exam, our expert staff will be sure to answer all your questions and make you as comfortable as possible.

Offered at: Johnston Health

What is Nuclear Medicine?

In nuclear medicine imaging, a small amount of radioactive material is administered to the patient either orally, through an IV, or inhaled as a gas. This material accumulates on the specific organ or cellular receptor being studied and begins to emit radiation. The radiation is detected and captured by special cameras and is formed into images that allow your physician to get a detailed picture of the specific body part being examined. This helps doctors to study the physiology of a specific organ or tissue, which helps some diseases be detected at an earlier stage than other diagnostic tests would allow. Nuclear medicine can also be used as a treatment for cancer of other conditions affecting the thyroid gland.

What to Expect

At the start of your nuclear medicine exam, radioactive material will be administered. Depending on the body part being studied, the imaging may begin immediately after, or you may need to wait up to two hours for the material to fully be absorbed. Multiple images will usually be made, and some patients may need to come back 24 or 48 hours later for additional images.

Through the natural process of radioactive decay, the material in your body will lose its radioactivity within a short period of time.

How to Prepare

Preparation requirements for nuclear imaging tests vary depending on the body part being studied. Some tests do not require any preparation, and others require you to have no food or liquid prior to the exam, or to abstain from certain medications. All patients should bring a list of current medications and dosage with them to the exam.

Please click below for preparation instructions for specific tests, and be sure to follow any individual instructions from your physician.