Nuclear Medicine

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Nuclear Medicine

Overview

Nuclear Medicine is the medical specialty that uses radioactive tracers to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of diseases. After the tracer is administered, a gamma camera and computer are used to create images or scans of important body and organ functions. The scans are usually performed in conjunction with other imaging studies which give more anatomic information of the regions studied.

Nuclear medicine studies use radiation. The dose to the patient varies depending on the test, but the range is similar to x-rays and CT scans. Children receive a lower amount of radiation that is based on their weight. Usually, no special precautions need to be taken after the study and normal activity can be resumed immediately.

In general, the actual tracers cause no pain or any other symptom. University Radiology has extensive experience using these tracers; the physicians and technologists are trained and certified in their use; and reactions to the tracer are very rare.

Patient preparation for nuclear medicine studies is highly variable and a nuclear medicine technologist or nurse will contact the patient prior to the examination if any special preparation is required.

A brief description of each Nuclear Medicine is shown below.

Note Regarding Pregnancy Testing:   As with all tests involving radiation, patients will be asked whether or not they may be pregnant. Most nuclear medicine scans are avoided or postponed if there is a possibility of pregnancy in order to avoid risk to the fetus.

Even though the patient may be certain that she is not pregnant, University Radiology protocols may require a blood pregnancy test.  Be assured that this requirement is applied uniformly, the only goal is to guarantee patient safety, and nuclear medicine protocols do not allow exceptions to the rule.

The Procedure

All Nuclear Medicine studies require a written prescription or referral stating the exam being ordered and the patient’s signs and symptoms indicating medical necessity of the procedure. If we do not have the written prescription in hand, the radioisotope cannot be administered.

Frequently Ordered Nuclear Medicine Studies

Bone Scan

Used for early detection of fractures, tumors, infection and arthritis.

Cardiac Scans

Muga scan is used to evaluate the function of the heart as a pump. Myocardial perfusion is used to evaluate the adequacy of the coronary blood flow to the heart muscle.

Gallium Scan

Detects soft tissue and skeletal infections and tumors.

Gastric Emptying Scan (Liquid and Solid)

Evaluates how well your stomach empties.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Scan

Evaluates gastroesophageal reflux (usually in children).

Hepatobiliary Scan

Detects acute cholecystitis. May also be used to evaluate for chronic gallbladder abnormalities.

Lymphoscintigraphy

Delineates the path of lymph channels prior to surgical removal of malignant tumors.

Meckel’s Scan

Detects bleeding from a Meckel's diverticulum.

Nuclear Cystogram

Detects reflux from urinary bladder to ureters (usually in children).

Parathyroid Scan

Detects presence of parathyroid adenoma or hyperplasia in patients with abnormally high serum calcium levels.

Renal Scan

Evaluates kidney blood flow, urine formation and urinary obstruction.

SPECT Scan

Computed tomographic radionuclide study to improve detection of small lesions, usually as a part of a study using planar imaging.

Thyroid Uptake and Scan

Evaluates thyroid nodules and how well the thyroid is functioning. 

Whole Body Iodine Uptake Scan

Detects remnants of functioning thyroid and thyroid cancer after surgery for thyroid cancer.

Nuclear Medicine Therapy

Iodine-131

Therapy for hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer.

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