What is general Nuclear medicine?
Nuclear Medicine (or Molecular imaging) is a type of medical imaging that provides detailed images of what is happening inside the body at the molecular and cellular level.
Nuclear Medicine is used to diagnose and determine the severity of a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease, gastrointestinal, endocrine, neurological disorders and other abnormalities within the body. Some treatments are also offered, such as Iodine 131 Therapy for thyrotoxicosis.
Other diagnostic imaging procedures such as x-rays, CT and Ultrasound offer images of physical structure and anatomy whereas Nuclear Medicine allows physicians to see how the body is functioning and to measure its chemical and biological processes.
Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive materials (Radiopharmaceutical) to diagnose and treat disease. The amount is so low that it will not interfere with the process that it is measuring and will not interact with any medications that you may be taking. In nuclear medicine imaging, the radiopharmaceuticals are detected by special types of cameras that work with computers to provide pictures which represent the location of the radiopharmaceutical in your body.
Radiopharmaceutical is most commonly injected into the blood stream through a vein, but might be given in different ways, including:
How NM helps patients?
As a tool for evaluation and managing the care of patients NM helps physicians to:
You will require an appointment for all Nuclear medicine studies.
You may be asked to wear a gown during the exam or you may be allowed to wear your own clothing.
Women should always inform the staff if there is any possibility that they are pregnant or if they are breastfeeding. See the Safety page for more information about pregnancy and breastfeeding related to Nuclear Medicine imaging.
In some instances, certain medications or procedures may interfere with examination ordered. You should inform the technologist performing your exam of any medications you are taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements. You should also inform them if you have any allergies and about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
The preparation required for a nuclear medicine scan varies with the actual body part being scanned. You will receive specific instructions based on the type of scan you are undergoing. For further information on specialised Nuclear Medicine procedures, please click here.
For further information or to make an appointment, please contact us on (02) 9098 8660.
How is the procedure performed?
You will be positioned on an examination table. If necessary, a technologist will insert a cannula into a vein in your hand or arm. Depending on the type of scan you are undergoing, the dose of radiotracer is then injected intravenously, swallowed or inhaled as a gas.
When the tracer is given intravenously, you will feel a slight pin prick when the needle is inserted into your vein for the intravenous line. When the tracer is injected into your arm, you may feel a cold sensation moving up your arm, but there are generally no other side effects. When swallowed, the radiotracer has little or no taste. When inhaled, you should feel no differently than when breathing room air or holding your breath.
It can take anywhere from several seconds to several days for the radiotracer to travel through your body and accumulate in the organ or area being studied. As a result, imaging may be done immediately, a few hours later, or even several days after you have received the radioactive material.
Through the natural process of radioactive decay, the small amount of radiotracer in your body will lose its radioactivity over time. It may also pass out of your body through your urine or stool during the first few hours or days following the scan. You should also drink plenty of water to help flush the radioactive material out of your body as instructed by technologists.
When it is time for the imaging to begin, the camera will take a series of images. The camera may rotate or stay in one position. If you are claustrophobic, you should inform the technologist before the scan.
The length of time for nuclear procedures varies greatly, depending on the type of exam. Actual time for scan can take from 20min to several hours and may be conducted over several days.