Nuclear Medicine: Highly Effective Imaging for Highly Effective Care
Nuclear medicine is the practice of using small amounts of a radioactive isotope to produce a contrast image of the body as it functions. The isotopes are injected into a vein for all exams except two, which require you to swallow a small pill. Because the isotopes are not dyes, you will not experience any allergic reaction to them. The amount of radiation used is similar to that of an X-ray and has no long-term side effects to the body. The majority of the isotopes simply decay and leave the body in 24 hours.
While CT and MRI are used to determine the appearance and structure of a particular area of the body, nuclear medicine allows physicians to observe and determine how a body part functions.
Nuclear medicine services
- Nuclear Cardiac Stress Test – exercise and drug-induced
- Low Dose Thyroid Therapy for overactive thyroid glands
- High Dose Thyroid Therapy for cancer patients
- Sentinel node localization
All nuclear medicine procedures are scheduled in advance. Nuclear medicine procedures require an individual dose of radioactive material that is specific to the patient and examination being performed. The isotope is generally active for a short period of time. The injection time can vary between five minutes in advance of the procedure to up to 24 hours in advance. The time of injection depends upon the examination being done in order to concentrate for the examination being performed.
Computers are used and provide for accurate imaging. The technologist is able to talk with you throughout much of the examination. The scan is performed by placing the patient onto a horizontal table and the camera is placed above, sometimes below or to the side in order to “take pictures” for the body part being examined. The exam time varies between one to five hours. Machine noises include fan sounds and an occasional bell chime. The exam table may move and slight vibrations are considered normal.
Nuclear medicine cardiac stress testing
The radioactive tracer is administered through an IV in the arm or hand vein. After approximately 30 minutes, a set of scans are done while the patient is in the “resting phase” of the examination. After the resting sequence is done, the test requires that 10 small “leads” are placed on the patient’s chest (hair will be shaved when necessary) and connected to a heart monitor. The patient may be placed on an exercise treadmill for a specific period of time and observed for peak cardiac activity. For patients who cannot use the treadmill, a drug will be injected to substitute for the treadmill activity. The physician will determine when an additional injection will be given. Next, the second set of scans are done and the two sets of pictures are compared for evaluation of heart functions.
Clearer results are obtained on certain patients if the procedures of “rest” and “stress” pictures are done on two separate days. The cardiovascular scheduler will let you know the day you schedule if this applies to you.