Nuclear Medicine 

Nuclear Medicine diagnostic testing is a non-invasive procedure that uses an opposite approach for testing. With nuclear medicine the radioactive material is introduced into the patient that then the camera detects the radiation as it is emitted by the body. The radioactive material that is introduced is a very small amount.

Nuclear medicine has a broad range of available tests. Cardiac nuclear medicine, bone scans, and general body scans are amongst the most popular.

Frequently Asked Nuclear Medicine Questions

Are there risks associated with this test?

As with any medical test there are some risks. The most common include allergic reactions to the radioactive dye or tracer, and bleeding or swelling may develop at the injection site, while these are very uncommon they can occur. The benefits of this test far outweigh the risks. There are no risks from the radiation used for these tests; it is such a small amount of radiation that the effects go away within hours of completing the test.

How long are these procedures?

A Cardiac nuclear test generally takes a total of 2 hours to complete; however, depending on the schedule you may come for the first hour and then be asked to leave and come back at a later time for the second portion of the test.

A HIDA scan generally takes around 2 to 4 hours to complete.

A Bone scan can take anywhere from 3-5 hours to complete

A Gastric Emptying study is a very lengthy test. It will take a total of about 5 hours to complete; however, you only must be at our facility for about 15 minutes every hour.

Please see the respective pages for more information: Bone Scans, Cardiac Nuclear Medicine, General Body Nuclear Medicine

What if I am unable to walk on a treadmill for the Cardiac Stress Test?

We are happy to accommodate. We always try to keep an extra dose of the drug that can stimulate this. This drug is known as Lexiscan. It is injected through the same port as the radioactive dye. While we keep this on hand we do ask that you consult with your physician as to which version of the test he or she believes is best for you.

Can my spouse or family member accompany me to this procedure?

Due to radioactive materials being used in exams we only allow if needed. For communication purposes or if the patient is a child. We are more than happy to provide an update if needed to family members. 

What is the prep for these tests?

Each test has its own set of preparation guidelines. Please see the respective page for information. Bone Scans, Cardiac Nuclear Medicine, General Body Nuclear Medicine

Are there any pains associated with these tests?

Aside from the discomfort of the needle stick to transfer the radioactive material into a vein these tests are generally painless. 

Are the people who perform nuclear medicine scans specially trained?

Yes. Your study will be performed by a nuclear medicine technologist. Technologists are licensed and registered to perform the entire test. The images and information gathered is then interpreted by a board-certified Cardiologist. Meet our technologists and staff here!

I am pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or nursing; can I still have the Nuclear Medicine study my physician ordered?

If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant it is highly recommended that you do not have any form of radiation as it may cause harm to the unborn fetus. If you are of childbearing age the technologist or the assistant will ask you to sign a release form stating your last menstrual cycle.

If you are nursing the radiation can transfer through your milk supply and to your child. To avoid this we recommend that you wait 12-24 hours before nursing your child and you use the pump and dump method to ensure that no radiation is transferred. However, if this is not an option then we do ask that you wait until you are completed nursing before you schedule your nuclear medicine study.

If you are unable to have the test your physician ordered due to one of the concerns above we do reccomend that you contact your physician for further guidance. 

How does nuclear medicine work?

Through intravenous injection, capsules, orally or inhaled the radioactive material (isotope) is given to the patient. The isotopes all have different compounds which allow them to target organs and areas. The special cameras then pick up the gamma rays generated by the isotope. The cameras do not produce any radiation on their own. The produced images and information are then given to a cardiologist to interpret.

Will I have to go inside a tunnel?

None of our machines have a tunnel. You will be laying down and the camera will rotate around you; however, you will never be put in tunnel area and your head is generally completely open.

Are there any restrictions following the test?

You are able to return to work and drive normally following any nuclear medicine test. There is nothing that should affect your ability to preform daily tasks. However, you may be asked to refrain from spending prolonged periods of time in direct contact with infants and small children for the remainder of the day as the radiation could make them sick.