Nuclear Medicine

What Is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear Medicine is a subspecialty within the field of radiology.  It uses short-lived radioactive elements and specialized cameras to visualize blood flow and functional and metabolic activity within organs and lesions, revealing ways in which disease alters the normal function of an organ. It is a non-invasive imaging technology which allows early diagnosis of disease and can often make invasive procedures unnecessary.
The radioactive elements used are called radiopharmaceutical agents, which are gamma-emitting radionuclides attached to a pharmaceutical agent known to accumulate in a particular part of the body. This agent is injected, ingested, or inhaled by the patient and the subsequent distribution within the body is determined by the agent used.
The camera used for these procedures is a gamma camera scanner, which is capable of detecting gamma radiation and converting that radiation into light. The light is then transformed to a digital signal, which in turn produces an image on a computer screen. Scanners can have 1 to 3 gamma cameras inside and are capable of producing images in both two and three dimensions.

How Can I Prepare My Child For The Procedure?

It is helpful to be honest with your child about the test. Explain in simple terms why the child needs the test, what will happen, and what you and your child can do to best prepare for the procedure. Reassure your child that you will be able to stay with them during the procedure. 
Our staff is specially trained to deal with children and to help calm any anxieties they may have. We place a great deal of importance on making sure that children and their families are well informed about the procedure in advance, so that they know what to expect. If you are concerned that your child may be afraid, there are child life specialists available who can suggest ways to help prepare your child. In addition, to help distract your child during the procedure, we have a library of suitable DVDs that children can watch while being examined. You are invited to bring your child’s favorite programs as well.

What Can My Child And I Expect To Experience?

A radiopharmaceutical agent, or tracer, is usually administered into a vein. There will be the discomfort of a needle stick. Depending on the type of exam that is being performed, the imaging will be done either immediately, a few hours later, or even several days after the injection. In certain tests that may involve your child’s bladder, placement of a catheter may be required. This may be uncomfortable, although it is not painful. The radioactive tracer decays over time and is eliminated through normal body functions.
Although the cameras and scanners are large pieces of equipment that may seem scary, they simply take pictures of the body without touching the patient. The child needs only to lie still; if the child moves, the images may be blurry and may need to be repeated. Imaging time varies, depending on the type of exam being performed, but generally range from 20 – 45 minutes. Some procedures require multiple images taken over a period of time.
If sedation is needed to help the child lie still, our staff is well prepared to administer the sedation and monitor your child both before and after the procedure.

Are There Side Effects Or Complications?

Diagnostic nuclear medicine exams produce no known complications. 

Is There Follow-up Care?

No follow-up care is required for diagnostic nuclear medicine exams. 

More Information

For more information on Nuclear Medicine, please select one of the Information Pamphlets provided from the American College of Radiology (ACR) and Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) below:
Cardiac Nuclear Medicine   Pediatric Nuclear Medicine
General Nuclear Medicine   Thyroid Scan and Uptake



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