Nuclear Medicine

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.

Nuclear Medicine:

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:

Neurologic Applications:


Alzheimer›s Disease Demonstrate

Changes in AIDS Dementia Evaluate

Patients for Carotid Surgery Localize

Seizure Foci Evaluate Post

Concussion Syndrome Diagnose

Multi-Infarct Dementia

Oncologic Applications:

  • Tumor Localization
  • Tumor Staging
  • Identify Metastatic Sites
  • Judge Response to Therapy
  • Relieve Bone Pain Caused by Cancer
  • Thyroid cancer treatment
  • Quantity of

Orthopedic Applications:

Identify Occult Bone Trauma (Sports Injuries)

Diagnose Osteomyelitis

Evaluate Arthritic Changes and Extent

Localize Sites for Tumor Biopsy

Measure Extent of Certain Tumors

Identify Bone Infarcts in Sickle Cell


Renal Applications:

Detect Urinary Tract Obstruction

Diagnose Renovascular Hypertension

Measure Differential Renal Function

Detect Renal Transplant Rejection

Detect Pyelonephritis

Detect Renal Scars

Cardiac Applications:

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

Enzyme Changes

Pulmonary Applications:

Diagnose Pulmonary Emboli

Detect Pulmonary

Complications of AIDS

Quantify Lung

Ventilation and Perfusion

Detect Lung Transplant Rejection

Detect Inhalation Injury in Burn


Other Applications:

Diagnose and Treat Hyperthyroidism

(Gravesi Disease)

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.

Nuclear Medicine Department and Staff

A powerfull team working for your Health

Dr. Nouman H. Habbab

Consultant Nuclear Medicine