Nuclear medicine is a type of medical imaging that uses small quantities of radioactive material to diagnose and determine the severity of a disease within the body. It is also used to treat a variety of diseases.

What is nuclear medicine imaging?

Nuclear medicine imaging uses minor amounts of radioactive materials called radiotracers that are usually injected into the bloodstream, inhaled or swallowed. The radiotracer then travels through the area being examined and gives off energy in the form of gamma rays, which are detected by a special camera.

Through processing, a computer then creates images of the inside of your body. Nuclear medicine imaging can provide unique information that may not be obtained using other imaging procedures and offers the potential to identify disease in its earliest stages.

Nuclear medicine imaging procedures are non-invasive apart from the initial intravenous injection. They are usually painless medical tests. 

In our department, the nuclear medicine images are superimposed with computed tomography (CT) to produce special image views. These views allow the information to be interpreted with more precision. 

What happens during the imaging?

There are various processes depending on the type of nuclear medicine examination you are having. Your particular procedure steps will be explained to you by your referrer and also when you give your informed consent for the procedure to be performed. 

What happens after the imaging?

In most cases, you may resume your normal activities after your nuclear medicine scan. If any special instructions are necessary, you will be informed by the radiographer before you leave the nuclear medicine department.

The small amount of radiotracer in your body will lose its radioactivity over time through natural decay. It will also pass out of your body through your urine or stool during the first few hours or days following the test. Be sure to drink plenty of water to help flush the radioactive material out of your body.

Your images are studied by a radiologist (doctor who uses x-rays to diagnose and treat illnesses) and the results will be sent to the doctor who referred you. 

You may already have an appointment with the doctor who referred you. If not, you may need to contact them to discuss the results and any potential treatment you may need.

If you are a hospital inpatient, the results will be available to the doctors looking after you on the ward.

Do I need to bring anything?

It is advised that you wear comfortable clothing that can be easily changed. Minimal jewellery is also advised as this will need to be removed. 

Getting results

Results will be sent to your referring clinician. Outpatients will receive results at their next outpatient appointment. Inpatients will receive their results from their in-house doctor.

Preparation for nuclear medicine imaging 

You must tell your referrer and the radiographer if there is any possibility you are pregnant or if you are breastfeeding. You must also inform us of any recent illnesses, medical conditions, allergies and medications you’re taking. 

There are various preparations depending on the type of nuclear medicine examination you are having. If preparation is required, you will be informed in advance in your appointment letter.

If you are on regular medication and are unsure of instructions around it at the time of your procedure, please contact us.


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