Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty that uses very small amounts of radioactive materials or radiopharmaceuticals to image the body, diagnose and treat disease. Nuclear medicine scans are commonly used to diagnose problems with bones, liver, lungs, heart and thyroid glands. However, your physician may order a nuclear study for other conditions. Nuclear medicine imaging is unique in that it documents organ function and structure, as opposed to simply documenting anatomy.


Nuclear medicine imaging procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease, long before some medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests. This early detection allows a disease to be treated early in its course when there may be a more successful prognosis.

How to Prepare

In most cases, no advanced preparation is required prior to the procedure. If preparation is required, your physician will advise you or you will receive instructions at the time the procedure is scheduled.

The Procedure

You will be provided the radioactive substance one of three ways: IV injection, capsules or inhalation. The radiologists will choose the method that is appropriate for your study. A waiting period is normally required after the radioactive substance has been administered. The wait can vary from 15 minutes to four hours, depending upon the time required for the body to absorb the particular substance. During this time you will be free to read, talk, walk around and watch TV during the waiting period.

The actual scanning process takes between 30 to 60 minutes to complete. You will be positioned on a table next to a special camera. The camera does not emit any radiation. It receives the radiation from the substance you were administered. Usually, several scans will be taken to provide the physician with best possible views to diagnose the organ under study. You will lie still on the table for several minutes as each scan is taken.

After the Procedure

There are no special steps to take after the procedure. The small amount of radioactive substance in your body has no side effects. You should feel fine and be able to resume all normal activities.

Wilson's board-certified radiologists will review your scans and send a written report to your physician to help make the best possible diagnosis. Your physician will discuss the results with you and start appropriate treatment if necessary.

Possible Risks

Your physician will weigh the benefit-versus-risk when ordering a nuclear procedure on your behalf. Most physicians agree that the benefit of an early and accurate diagnosis far outweigh the risk of receiving a small amount of radioactive material administered during the test. When contrasted with other medical tests that involve the use of radiation, nuclear medicine compares favorably and in fact, most scans involve the same amount or less radiation than that required for an X-ray.

For more information regarding Nuclear Medicine, please call (937) 498-5336.