At Wesley Medical Center, patients have access to routine and specialty imaging testing at four convenient locations. Imaging tests are administered in a safe and comfortable environment by a team of high-qualified and trained medical staff and doctors. Our facilities provide flexible scheduling for imaging exams in order to best accommodate all patients. Tests results are typically available in a short amount of time and immediately sent to your doctor.

Patients who undergo a nuclear medicine imaging test take what is called radioactive tracer, which is usually injected into the bloodstream, inhaled or swallowed. The radioactive tracer gives off energy in the form of gamma rays, which are detected by a special camera to create detailed images of the inside of the body. Nuclear medicine imaging has the potential to identify diseases in their earliest stages.

In nuclear medicine, this radioactive material helps doctors diagnose and treat many different types of diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, endocrine disorders, neurological disorders and other health conditions.

Common Uses for Nuclear Medicine Imaging Procedures

Nuclear imaging allows physicians to get a clearer picture of the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone or one of the main systems of the human body.

For adults, common uses for nuclear medicine imaging include:

  • Heart conditions — imaging can visualize heart blood flow and function, detect coronary artery disease, view damage to the heart after a heart attack, evaluate heart function before and after chemotherapy, and help physicians determine treatment options for a heart condition, like bypass surgery or angioplasty.
  • Lung disease — Nuclear medicine imaging is used to scan lungs for respiratory and blood flow issues, assess lung function for transplant surgery and detect a lung transplant rejection.
  • Bone health — Imaging can detect fractures, infection and arthritis in the bone, help diagnose metastatic bone disease, identify sites for biopsy and evaluate painful prosthetic joints and bone tumors
  • Brain disorders — Nuclear medicine aids in detecting abnormalities in the brain, such as seizures, memory loss or abnormal blood flow. Imaging may detect early-onset of certain neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Imaging is also used to evaluate a recurring brain tumor, radiation planning or localization for biopsy.
  • Systems of the body — Nuclear medicine imaging can also identify inflammation of the gallbladder, identify the location of an infection, measure thyroid function (for overactive or underactive thyroid), aid in diagnosing blood cell disorders, and evaluate other medical conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nuclear Imaging

Are there any risks for the procedure?

The doses of radioactive tracer that a patient receives are very small, which means that a diagnostic nuclear medicine procedure results in a low radiation exposure to the patient. The radiation risk for these procedures is very low and there are no long-term adverse effects from such a low-dose exposure of radiation. Allergic reactions to radiopharmaceuticals is very rare, but patients should inform medical staff of any allergies prior to their procedure.

Why do I need this procedure?

Nuclear medicine imaging tests provide doctors with many details and valuable information about what’s going on in the body that often cannot be read through other imaging tests. Nuclear medicine often scans the useful and important information physicians need to make a diagnosis or determine the right treatment for your health condition. Nuclear medicine can also detect diseases and disorders in their earliest stages, even before symptoms occur or they show up on another diagnostic test.

Who performs the procedure? When will I get my test results?

The procedure is performed by a radiologist or physician trained in nuclear medicine. Test results are faxed to your doctor and are typically available in 3-5 business days.

Preparing for your Nuclear Medicine Imaging Procedure

The length of time for a nuclear imaging exam can vary widely, depending on the health condition or type of procedure being performed. Before the procedure, patients need to remove all jewelry and other metallic accessories (like piercings). Make sure to tell your doctor and technologist about any medications you are currently taking and inform them of any allergies you may have.

Before the exam, depending on the type of nuclear medicine imaging a patient is undergoing, a dose of the radioactive tracer is injected intravenously (through an IV), swallowed or inhaled as gas. It can take mere seconds, or several days, for the radioactive tracer to travel through your body to the area being examined. Because of this, the imaging test may occur right away, or several days after the dosage.

During the imaging test, a camera or scanner will take a series of images. The camera may rotate around the body, or the patient may have to change positions while the technologist is taking the pictures. Patients may be asked to remain still while the camera is on. Following the test, drink plenty of water when you get home to help flush out the radioactive material out of your body.

Children who are undergoing a Nuclear Medicine Exam

In children, nuclear medicine imaging can be used to detect the presence or spread of cancer in the body. Nuclear medicine can also evaluate the body’s response to cancer treatments and therapy. Additionally, nuclear medicine imaging can detect or diagnose other health conditions in children, such as kidney blood flow and function, urinary tract obstruction, and abnormalities in the esophagus, among others.

During the procedure, young children may need to be gently wrapped or sedated to help hold them still while the imaging takes place. A doctor or nurse who specializes in pediatric anesthesia will be on hand during the exam to ensure your child’s safety. If parents have any concerns about their child undergoing an imaging test, your doctor can address any questions you have.