Nuclear Medicine Scans

What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear Medicine is a medical imaging technique that uses radioactive material and a camera (known as a gamma camera) to acquire images of the body. In nuclear medicine studies a small amount of radioisotope (radioactive material) is introduced into the body via injection, ingestion or inhalation. This radioisotope is very specific and mimics the actions of normally occurring elements in the body. Radioisotopes emit small amounts of gamma rays. In Nuclear Medicine studies a gamma camera is placed over or around the body to detect these rays after the radioisotope is administered. The detected rays are then converted into images.

Nuclear medicine can be used to diagnose ailments as well as treat some disorders.


Preparation – What to do before a nuclear medicine scan

You will require an appointment for all nuclear medicine studies.

The preparation required for a nuclear medicine scan varies with the actual body part being scanned. At Southern Radiology standard preparations are as follows:

Examination Preparation
Bone Scan

 

Lung(VQ) Scan

DMSA Renal Study

Liver/Spleen Scan

Liver Haemangioma Study

Gallium Scan

Gated Heart Pool (GHPS) Study

Iodine Therapy For Hyperthyroid

White Blood Cell Study

Lymphoscintigraphy

No preparation is required.
Thyroid Scan Do not undergo this study within 6 weeks of having iodine based intravenous contrast .Examinations using this contrast include IVPs, CT scans, and angiography.
Parathyroid Scan Do not undergo this study within 6 weeks of having iodine based intravenous contrast .Examinations using this contrast include IVPs, CT scans, and angiography.
Hepatobiliary/HIDA (gallbladder) Scan Fast for 6 hrs prior to your appointment. Nothing to eat or drink. Exceptions are:

 

Continue to take regular medication with a sip of water unless otherwise advised.

If you are diabetic advise our staff of this when booking your appointment so that your needs can be accommodated safely. If you are insulin dependent diabetic please make sure you bring your insulin and something to eat with you.

Renal(DTPA)Scan A full bladder is required.

 

Attend your appointment well hydrated. Drink 1 litre of water in the hour before your appointment.
A full bladder is not necessary. Void when you find it necessary.

Sestamibi Cardiac Scan

This study takes 5 to 6 hours.

Cease caffeine (coffee, tea, milo, cola and chocolate) 24 hours prior to appointment.

Fast from midnight on the day of your appointment.

Do not take any medication on the day of your appointment.

Bring all your medication with you.

If you can exercise bring exercise clothing and running shoes.

If you are diabetic inform our staff of this when you are booking your appointment so that your needs can be accommodated safely. If you are insulin dependent make sure you bring your insulin with you.

Gastric Emptying Study Inform our staff if you have an allergy to egg products or if you have a strong aversion to eggs.
Your appointment will generally need to be first thing in the morning.
Fast for 6 hrs prior to your appointment. Nothing to eat.
Exceptions are :

 

Continue to take regular medication with a sip of water unless otherwise advised.

If you are diabetic advise our staff of this when booking your appointment so that your needs can be accommodated safely. If you are insulin dependent diabetic please make sure you bring your insulin with you and something to eat.

Colon Transit Study This study takes 5 appointments over 5 consecutive days. Day 1 being a Monday and Day 5 being the Friday of that week.
Appointments are made in the morning of each day.

Day 1 appointment

Fast for 6 hrs prior to your appointment. Nothing to eat.

 

Exceptions are :

Continue to take regular medication with a sip of water unless otherwise advised.
If you are diabetic advise our staff of this when booking your appointment so that your needs can be accommodated safely. If you are insulin dependent diabetic please make sure you bring your insulin and something to eat with you.
5 Day Appointment.
No preparation is required.

At Southern Radiology our staff will advise you of any further instructions when you make your appointment. It is important to follow any preparation instructions given. All instructions are aimed at ensuring you receive a safe and accurate examination.

At the time of booking please advise our staff of any medical conditions that may contraindicate standard preparation instructions or even the test itself.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding it is imperative to advise our staff of this before booking an appointment.

For all examinations we ask that you bring along any previous imaging you have of the area under investigation in particular previous nuclear medicine studies.

At Southern Radiology we require a written referral from a medical doctor before undertaking any nuclear medicine examination. Please ensure you bring your referral with you to your appointment.

For billing purposes please bring your Medicare card.


The procedure – What happens during a nuclear medicine scan?

The exact procedure for any medical imaging examination depends on what is being imaged and why.

As a general guideline at Southern Radiology standard procedural steps for nuclear medicine studies are as follows:

Examination Procedure
Bone Scan You will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm.
The study requires a delay between your injection and your scan.
Scans are performed at least 2 hrs after this injection.
You are free to leave the practice after your injection and return for your scan 2 hours later. A 30 minute scan will be performed when you return.
Thyroid Scan You will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm.
The study requires a delay between your injection and your scan.
Scans are performed approximately 15 mins after this injection.
A 15 minute scan will be performed.
Parathyroid Scan You will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm.
The study requires a delay between your injection and your scan.
Scans are performed in 3 stages.
  1. 15 mins post injection
  2. 1 hour post injection
  3. 3 hours post injection

You will be free to leave the practice after your initial post injection scan and return for each subsequent scan thereafter.
Each scan will take approximately 15 mins to complete.

Lung (VQ) Scan You will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm and need to inhale some gas.
A scan will be performed after your injection and inhalation. The scan takes approximately 30 minutes.
Hepatobiliary/HIDA (gallbladder) Scan You will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm.
A scan will be performed immediately after your injection. The scan takes approximately 90 minutes.
Renal(DTPA)Scan You will have 2 injections into a vein in your arm. The first is the injection of radionuclide normally associated with nuclear medicine studies, the second is a pharmaceutical called Lasix. Lasix is diuretic and will increase the frequency of your need to urinate. Lasix is a very short acting drug and will not have any long lasting effects.
Scans will be performed after your injection. The total scan time is approximately 1 hour.
DMSA Renal Scan You will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm.
The study requires a delay between your injection and your scan.
Scans are performed 3 hrs after this injection.
You are free to leave the practice after your injection and return for your scan 3 hours later. A 45 minute scan will be performed when you return.
Gallium Scan You will need to have 2 appointments for this study on 2 consecutive days. On day 1 you will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm.
Scans are performed when you return on day 2 (48 hrs post injection).
A 90 minute scan will be performed when you return on day 2.
Liver/Spleen Scan You will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm.
The study requires a delay between your injection and your scan.
Scans are performed 20 minutes after this injection.
The scan time is approximately 45 mins.
Liver Haemangioma Scan You will have an injection of a radionuclide into a vein in your arm.
Scans are performed in 2 stages.
  1. Immediately post injection
  2. 2 hours post injection

You will be free to leave the practice after your initial post injection scan and return for your second scan 2 hours later.

Gated Heart Pool ( GHPS) Scan You will have 2 injections into a vein in your arm 15 minutes apart. Both injections are radionuclides normally associated with nuclear medicine studies.
Scans will be performed immediately after your 2nd injection for approximately 15 minutes.
Sestamibi Cardiac Scan

You will be in the department for 5 to 6 hours.

We will place a cannula into a vein in your arm.

You will have an injection of a radionuclide into this cannula.

A scan looking at your heart at rest will be performed approximately 1 hour post injection.

You will then have a wait of 1 to 2 hours before we do the stress part of the test.

This part of the test requires your heart to be exercised.

If you are capable you will be  exercised on a treadmill. When you reach peak exercise you will be injected with another dose of radionuclide.

If you are not capable of exercising you will have an injection of a pharmaceutical called Persantin.

Persantin will dilate your arteries forcing your heart muscles to work harder. Side effects of this injection are considered mild and may include headache, flushing or nausea. If you experience these symptoms they may be reversed by giving you another pharmaceutical called Aminophylline.

 A doctor will be present throughout this entire stage of the study and you will be closely monitored.

Following this part of the test you will be free to leave the department and have something to eat and drink.

You will be asked to return approximately 1 hour later for your final scan which looks at your heart after stress and takes 30 minutes.

Gastric Emptying Study You will have to ingest the radioisotope.
Upon arrival you will be asked to eat scrambled eggs containing the tracer required for the study.
The scan is performed immediately after you finish eating.
The scan time is approximately 90 mins.
Colon Transit Study You will need to have 2 appointments for this study on 2 consecutive days.
Day 1:
You will ingest the radioisotope by drinking milk containing the tracer.
The study requires a delay between your ingesting the milk and your scan.
A scan will be performed at approximately 3 p.m.
You are free to leave the practice after completing the milk drink and return for your scan at 3 p.m.
Day 2 – 5:
You will need to return each morning for a scan.
Each scan takes approximately 15 minutes.
Iodine Therapy for Hyperthyroid You will need to have 2 appointments for this study on 2 separate days.
There is no injection for this test.
Day 1:
You will need to have a consultation with our Nuclear Medicine Physician.
Day 2:
Iodine therapy is taken in capsule form with water.
No scanning is required.
White Blood Cell Study The study is performed in 3 stages.
  1. 8:30AM you will have some blood taken
  2. 12 noon you will have blood cells reinjected
  3. 3PM you will need to return for your scan

You will be free to leave the practice after each stage of your study.

Lymphoscintigraphy You will have injections between each of your toes.
Scans will be performed throughout the morning post injections.

Any further details on each procedure will be explained by your attending technician. They will explain all aspects of your study with you .Your consent will be sought prior to commencing the examination.

Although there are variations in procedural steps for nuclear medicine studies, when you arrive for your appointment:

  • You will need to register with our secretarial staff
  • You may be required to fill out some safety and medical history paperwork before we can commence your test


How long can I expect to be at Southern Radiology?

The duration of your visit includes the time it takes to:

  • register your details
  • complete safety and medical history paperwork
  • prepare for your test
  • complete necessary waiting time between the introduction of the isotope to your body and your scan
  • complete your study
  • collect your films

Nuclear Medicine scans require varying amounts of time. A general overview of time requirements are outlined below however, due to the diverse range of scans available we advise you to ask our friendly secretarial staff how long you should expect to be at our practice when you make your appointment.

Examination Procedure
Bone Scan Total appointment time of approximately 3 hrs.
Thyroid Scan Total appointment time of approximately 1 hr.
Parathyroid Scan Total appointment time of approximately 3 hrs.
Lung (VQ) Scan Total appointment time of approximately 1 ½ hrs.
Hepatobiliary/HIDA (gallbladder) Scan Total appointment time of approximately 2 hrs.
Renal(DTPA)Scan Total appointment time of approximately 1 ½ hrs.
DMSA Renal Scan Total appointment time of approximately 4 ½ hrs.
Gallium Scan 2 appointments on 2 consecutive days.

 

Day 1: total appointment time of approximately 1 hr.

Day 2: total appointment time of approximately 2 hrs.

Liver/Spleen Scan Total appointment time of approximately 1 ½ hrs.
Liver Haemangioma Scan Total appointment time of approximately 3 hrs.
Gated Heart Pool ( GHPS) Scan Total appointment time of approximately 1 hr.
Sestamibi Cardiac Scan 2 appointments on 2 consecutive days.

 

Day 1: total appointment time of approximately 1 ½ hr.

Day 2: total appointment time of approximately 2 hrs.

Gastric Emptying Study Total appointment time of approximately 2 ½ hrs.
Colon Transit Study 2 appointments on 2 consecutive days.

 

Day 1: total appointment time of approximately 7hrs.

5 Day Appointment: total appointment time of approximately 30 minutes per day.

Iodine Therapy for Hyperthyroid 2 appointments on 2 separate days.

 

Day 1: total appointment time of approximately 30 minutes.

Day 2-5: total appointment time of approximately 20 minutes.

White Blood Cell Study Total appointment time of approximately 7 hrs.
Lymphoscintigraphy Total appointment time of approximately 4 hrs.


Is it safe?

Nuclear Medicine uses a form of ionising radiation. All radiation is cumulative and has risks that cannot be avoided. The radiation emitted from the use of radioisotopes for the purpose of nuclear medicine scans is in general no greater than that received through other medical imaging examinations. At Southern Radiology all medical imaging is only performed where it is deemed the benefit of the examination will outweigh any potential risks.

Injected radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine are usually filtered out of the body by the kidneys excreted in your urine. Ingested radioisotopes are eliminated through your bowel movements. All elements used have a relatively short decay period and become inert (not radioactive) reasonably quickly.

You can be assured that radiation doses are kept to as low as reasonably possible.

About

Southern Radiology is a leading diagnostic imaging provider who is committed to providing prompt and professional care to both patients and referrers. We are one of the largest medical imaging providers servicing the southern, inner western and eastern suburbs of Sydney and led by our specialist diagnostic imaging radiologists, Southern Radiology provides you comprehensive diagnostic support across all imaging modalities.

Our services include diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, cardiac CT, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine and obstetric and gynaecological imaging. The Southern Radiology network consists of private community and hospital based practices, as well as two imaging research facilities.

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