What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear Medicine Imaging is a specialty within the field of medical imaging. The patient is given a small amount of a radioactive tracer that allows a gamma camera to view the functioning of internal organs. Nuclear Medicine can help physicians diagnose and monitor treatment, and is one of the most widely used methods for detecting early signs of heart, lung, liver, thyroid, bone and kidney disease. It is also useful in the detection of infections and tumours.

Why Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear Medicine allows physicians to ‘see’ the functioning of an organ, tissue, bone, and other body systems. For many diseases, Nuclear Medicine scans yield the most useful information to enable physicians to make a diagnosis, or determine the appropriate treatment.

What should I expect?

Nuclear Medicine Imaging depends on the gamma camera’s ability to view the radioactive tracer as it migrates to a specific area of the body. The most common method of introducing the radioactive tracer is through an intravenous injection. For some studies however, the radioactive tracer is swallowed or inhaled. Rest assured, the radiation risk is very low compared with the benefits of the exam. The radiation is comparable to X-ray procedures. Nuclear Medicine diagnostic procedures have been used for decades and there are no known long-term adverse effects from low-dose exposure; however women should let their doctor and technologist know if they are pregnant or breastfeeding. The amount of time required for Nuclear Medicine Imaging varies, depending upon the type of exam. Actual scanning may take 30–90 minutes or up to several hours, and in some cases may be conducted over several days.

How should I prepare?

Every Nuclear Medicine examination is different depending upon what area of the body is to be imaged. Your doctor and your GMI team of specialists will be happy to give you preparation information specific to your examination at the time of scheduling.