Nuclear Medicine Test
What is nuclear medicine imaging?
Nuclear medicine scans are safe and painless imaging tools that highlight the anatomy of an organ, bone or other body part, and also its performance.
These exams provide unique and detailed information needed to make a diagnosis, particularly during early stages of a disease.
Often, nuclear medicine scans show abnormalities before any other diagnostic tests.
During the exam, a certified nuclear medicine technologist will introduce a very small amount of radioactive material, called radiopharmaceuticals, into your body.
Special cameras communicate with computers to produce extremely detailed images of that particular body part.
Exams usually take 30 to 60 minutes, but check with your doctor’s office to find out specific times.
How to prepare for your appointment
- Bring a list of your medications, including the name and dosage.
- Some nuclear medicine exams require no preparation, but there are several that have dietary/medication restrictions. You should receive instructions for your exam from your physician’s office.
Restrictions for the most common exams
- Thyroid procedures: Stop taking thyroid medications and cold medications as directed by your physician prior to exam. Patients should not have a CAT Scan (CT) that required an injection six weeks prior to this exam.
- Cardiac Stress nuclear exams: Do not eat or drink for four hours before the procedure. Avoid products that contain caffeine, including chocolate, coffee, decaf coffee, soda and tea 18-24 hours before the exam.
- Gallbladder scans: Do not eat or drink for four hours before the procedure.
- Gastric Emptying/Reflux scan, Meckels Scan, White Blood Cell Scans: Do not eat for four hours before the procedure or drink for four hours before the procedure. This exam requires preparation for a lumbar puncture. Your doctor’s office should provide specific instructions.
- Gamma Cisternogram: This exam requires preparation for a lumbar puncture. Your doctor's office should provide specific instructions.
Getting your results
In most cases, your imaging exam will be interpreted within 24 hours. Please keep in mind that your doctor’s office may need additional time to incorporate the report into your personal medical record.