What Happens During a Nuclear Medicine Procedure?
Nuclear medicine tests (also known as scans, examinations, or procedures) are safe and painless. In a nuclear medicine test, small amounts of radiopharmaceuticals are introduced into the body by injection, swallowing, or inhalation. Radiopharmaceuticals are substances that are attracted to specific organs, bones, or tissues. The amount of radiopharmaceutical used is carefully selected to provide the least amount of radiation exposure to the patient but ensure an accurate test. A special camera (PET, SPECT, or gamma camera) is then used to take pictures of your body. The camera detects the radiopharmaceutical in the organ, bone or tissue and forms images that provide data and information about the area in question. Nuclear medicine differs from an x-ray, ultrasound or other diagnostic test because it determines the presence of disease based on biological changes rather than changes in anatomy.
Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest diagnostic imaging exams available. To obtain diagnostic information, a patient is given a very small amount of a radiopharmaceutical. Because such a small amount is used, the amount of radiation received from a nuclear medicine procedure is comparable to, or often times less than, that of a diagnostic x-ray. The nuclear medicine team will carefully perform the most appropriate examination for the patient’s particular medical problem and thereby avoid any unnecessary radiation exposure.
Are radiopharmaceuticals safe?
Absolutely. Like any medicine, they are prepared with great care. Before they are used, they are tested carefully and are approved for use by the U.S. food and Drug Administration. The quantity the pharmaceutical is very small, generally 10/1 th of a millionth of an ounce. The risk of a reaction is a 2 – 3 incidents per 100.000 injections, over 50 % of which are rashes, as compared to 2000- 3000 per 10.000 injections of x-ray contrast media.
Post procedure instructions
After most nuclear medicine procedures it is generally best to drink a lot of fluids and urinate as frequently as you can. This helps to flush the remaining radioactivity out of your body. The length of time you need to do this will depend on the kind of study you had and the type of radiopharmaceutical that was used. Again, it is best to ask your doctor.
An Integral Part of Patient Care
Nuclear medicine studies can help diagnose and treat many diseases. Some areas in which nuclear medicine is used include:
Alzheimer›s Disease Demonstrate
Changes in AIDS Dementia Evaluate
Patients for Carotid Surgery Localize
Seizure Foci Evaluate Post
Concussion Syndrome Diagnose
Identify Occult Bone Trauma (Sports Injuries)
Evaluate Arthritic Changes and Extent
Localize Sites for Tumor Biopsy
Measure Extent of Certain Tumors
Identify Bone Infarcts in Sickle Cell
Detect Urinary Tract Obstruction
Diagnose Renovascular Hypertension
Measure Differential Renal Function
Detect Renal Transplant Rejection
Detect Renal Scars
Coronary Artery Disease Measure
Effectiveness of Bypass Surgery
Measure Effectiveness of Therapy for
Heart Failure Detect Heart Transplant
Rejection Select Patients for Bypass
or Angioplasty Identify Surgical
Patients at High Risk for Heart Attacks
Identify Right Heart Failure Measure
Chemotherapy Cardiac Toxicity
Evaluate Valvular Heart Disease Shunts
and Quantify Them Diagnose and
Localize Acute Heart Attacks Before
Diagnose Pulmonary Emboli
Complications of AIDS
Ventilation and Perfusion
Detect Lung Transplant Rejection
Detect Inhalation Injury in Burn
Diagnose and Treat Hyperthyroidism
Detect Acute Cholecystitis
Chronic Biliary Tract Disfunction
Detect Acute Gastrointestinal Bleeding
Detect Testicular Torsion
Detect Occult Infections
Diagnose and Treat Blood Cell
Ask Your physician or local nuclear medicine department for more details on specific nuclear medicine procedures.