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Nuclear Medicine Scan

A nuclear medicine scan uses a special camera and a small amount of radioactive material to create pictures of your organs (such as your heart, lungs, liver, and gallbladder) and bones. Nuclear medicine scans may be used to both diagnose and treat disease. Some types of nuclear medicine scans commonly used include:

  • PET scan (positron emission tomography)

  • Specific body part scans. These include bone scans, biliary scans, thyroid scans, and cardiac scans

  • SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography)

  • PET/CT scans (PET/computerized tomography)

How do I get ready for a nuclear medicine scan?

  • Be sure to mention the medicines you take and ask if it’s OK to take them before your test.

  • You will be given a tracer (radioactive material). It may be injected, swallowed, or inhaled. If injected, you will get an IV (intravenous) line. Your scan may then be done right away, or you may need to wait a few hours or even days to allow the tracer to concentrate in the part of the body being studied. You may be scanned multiple times during one day depending on the type of nuclear scan you have.

  • Your scan may take a few hours. Bring something you can do if you need to wait.

Let the technologist know if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

  • Have had a nuclear medicine scan before

  • Have had a recent barium study or an X-ray using contrast

  • Have any fractures or artificial joints

  • Have any allergies

What happens during a nuclear medicine scan?

  • You will lie on a narrow imaging table.

  • A large camera is placed close to your body.

  • Remain as still as you can while the camera takes the pictures. This will ensure the best images.

  • The table or camera may be adjusted to take more pictures.

What happens after a nuclear medicine scan?

  • Drink plenty of water to help clear the tracer from your body.

  • Your doctor will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up visit or over the phone.

Your next appointment is: _________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Neil Grossman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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