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Nuclear Medicine: FAQ
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Nuclear Medicine: FAQ

The following is designed to provide information for patients who might be scheduled for a Nuclear Medicine Exam. It is not meant to take the place of an informed discussion between a patient and his/her healthcare provider about the procedure or the medications described below. It does not provide every detail and does not take the place of an Informed Consent form that might need to be signed on or before the day of the exam.

What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear Medicine is used for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseases and disorders. It usually requires the administration of a small amount of a radioactive substance, also known as a radiopharmaceutical or tracer. Each tracer is designed to concentrate in certain organ(s) depending on the exam requested by the physician.

A scan is taken of the organ(s) of interest by a specialized camera known as a Gamma Camera. This camera does not produce radiation. It is designed to detect extremely small amounts of the tracer that are concentrated in the organ(s) of interest. The amount of tracer administered is calculated to ensure the most accurate examination with the least amount of exposure to radiation.

How is a Nuclear Medicine Exam different from other x-ray Exams?

X-ray exams usually show the structure of an organ. A Nuclear Medicine Exam shows how an organ is functioning. For example an x-ray exam is used to see if there are any abnormalities in the structure of a Gall Bladder. The Nuclear Medicine Exam reveals if the Gall Bladder is functioning properly by watching it for a period of time to determine if it is excreting bile normally.

What kind of specialized staff is involved in the Nuclear Medicine exam?

The person who will perform the exam is a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. The technologist is specially trained and certified in the practice of Nuclear Medicine Technology. This training involves many years of education, experience and performance of Nuclear Medicine exams.

A Nuclear Medicine physician will interpret the images produced during the exam. This physician is specially trained and certified in Nuclear Medicine by the American Board of Nuclear Medicine.

Is a Nuclear Medicine Exam safe?

Nuclear Medicine exams are very safe. Serious side effects from a Nuclear Medicine exam are extremely rare. There are no known risks or serious side effects from the small amount of tracer that is needed to perform the exam. The amount of radiation exposure for diagnostic nuclear medicine exams is the same if not less that that of a routine x-ray.

What if the patient is possibly pregnant, pregnant or breast-feeding?

Before the exam is to be performed, the patient should make sure that her physician, as well as the Nuclear Medicine staff, is aware that she is or may be pregnant or nursing. Certain precautions must be discussed and taken in these situations.

What if I still have questions or concerns?

More information is provided about specific Nuclear Medicine exams at the right.  However, if a patient needs additional information and would like to speak with us, please give us a call.