OSF St. Joseph Medical Center

Bloomington, Illinois

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and determine the severity of or treat a variety of diseases including many types of cancers; heart disease; gastrointestinal, endocrine and neurological disorders; and other abnormalities within the body.

Nuclear medicine imaging procedures are noninvasive and, with the exception of intravenous injections, are usually painless medical tests that help physicians diagnose and evaluate medical conditions. These imaging scans use radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers. 

Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam, the radiotracer is either injected into the body, swallowed, or inhaled as a gas and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of the body being examined.

Radioactive emissions from the radiotracer are detected by a special camera or imaging device that produces pictures and provides molecular information.

Preparing for Your Test


  • Please bring a complete list of your current medications and dosages.
  • At the time of scheduling, you will receive specific medication instructions based on the type of scan you are undergoing.

Pregnancy Testing Policy

It is the policy of OSF St. Joseph Medical Center to verify pregnancy status on all female patients having a nuclear medicine exam.

This policy is to avoid potential harm to an unborn baby as a result of the radiation or medications given during the exam.

A pregnancy test is required prior to the procedures listed above. It should be ordered by your physician if you are a female between the ages of 10 and 55, and you have not had a hysterectomy or bilateral oophorectomy. Home pregnancy tests are not acceptable.

If you are pregnant, please notify your physician.

What to Expect

Please arrive 30 minutes prior to the time of your scheduled test.  Check in through the Admitting Department located at Entrance A. Admitting will then direct you to the radiology area.

Nuclear medicine imaging is usually performed on an outpatient basis, but is often performed on hospitalized patients as well.

You will be positioned on an examination table. If necessary, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous catheter into a vein in your hand or arm.

It can take anywhere from several seconds to several days for the radiotracer to travel through your body and accumulate in the organ or area being studied. As a result, imaging may be done immediately, a few hours later, or even several days after you have received the radioactive material.

When it is time for the imaging to begin, the camera or scanner will take a series of images. The camera may rotate around you or it may stay in one position and you will be asked to change positions in between images.

While the camera is taking pictures, you will need to remain still for brief periods of time. In some cases, the camera may move very close to your body. This is necessary to obtain the best quality images. If you are claustrophobic, you should inform the technologist before your exam begins.

If a probe is used, this small hand-held device will be passed over the area of the body being studied to measure levels of radioactivity.

The length of time for nuclear medicine procedures varies greatly, depending on the type of exam. Actual scanning time for nuclear imaging exams can take from 20 minutes to several hours and may be conducted over several days.

Results & Recovery

When the examination is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist checks the images in case additional images are needed. Occasionally, more images are obtained for clarification or better visualization of certain areas or structures.

The need for additional images does not necessarily mean there was a problem with the exam or something abnormal was found, and should not be a cause of concern for you.

If you had an intravenous line inserted for the procedure, it will usually be removed unless you are scheduled for an additional procedure the same day that requires an intravenous line.

Test Results

Your test will be read by a Radiologist (doctor specializing in medical imaging). Results are available to your physician’s office within 24 to 48 hours; but, it may take some time for your physician to review your results.

You can make plans with your ordering doctor on how to receive your test results (such as follow-up doctor appointment, calling the doctor’s office, etc.).


Day(s) Time(s)
Monday - Friday 7 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.


To schedule or cancel an appointment, please call (309) 661-5160.

We do need to have a valid order from a physician to schedule an appointment.