The Queen’s Medical Center – West O‘ahu offers nuclear medicine imaging procedures, which are noninvasive and usually painless procedures that help physicians diagnose medical conditions or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities within the body.
Unlike other imaging techniques, nuclear medicine imaging studies are less about picturing anatomy and structure, and more concerned with depicting physiologic processes within the body, such as rates of metabolism or levels of various other chemical activity.
Nuclear medicine imaging scans are performed to:
These procedures are usually performed on an outpatient basis, but are often ordered for hospitalized patients as well.
Depending on the type of exam, the length of time for nuclear medicine procedures varies greatly. Actual scanning time for nuclear imaging exams can take from 20 minutes to several hours, and may be conducted over several days as 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.
During the procedure, you will be positioned on an examination table. If necessary, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm, then you will be given a dose of radiotracer. Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the dose of radiotracer is then injected intravenously, swallowed or inhaled as a gas.
If the radiotracer is:
Once the radiotracer has traveled through your body and accumulated in the organ or area being studied, which can take from several seconds to several days, a gamma camera 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.
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.
Finally, If you had an IV line inserted for the procedure, it will usually be removed unless you are scheduled for an operating room procedure that same day.
Unless your physician tells you otherwise, you may resume your normal activities after your nuclear medicine scan. If any special instructions are necessary, you will be informed by a technologist, nurse or physician before you leave the nuclear medicine department.
A radiologist who has specialized training in nuclear medicine will interpret the images and forward a report to your referring physician.
Find updated information about this modality from the Radiological Society of North America.