A nuclear medicine scan is a test in which radioactive material is taken into the body and is used to create an image of a specific organ or bone.
The purpose of a nuclear medicine scan is to locate areas of impaired function in the organ or bone being scanned. Nuclear medicine scans are widely used for diagnosis and monitoring of many different conditions. In the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, nuclear medicine scans are used to identify cancerous sites, for tumor localization and staging, and to judge response to therapy.
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding should not undergo this test. A patient who is unable to remain
still for an extended period of time may require sedation for a nuclear medicine scan.
A nuclear medicine scan is an extremely sensitive test that can provide information about the structure and function of specific parts of the body. Types of nuclear scans include bone scans, heart scans, lung scans, kidney and bladder scans, thyroid scans, liver and spleen scans, and gallbladder scans. Brain scans are done to detect malignancy.
In a nuclear medicine scan, a small amount of radioactive material, or tracer, is injected or taken orally by the patient. After a period of time during which the radioactive material accumulates in one area of the body, a scan is taken by a special radiation detector, called a radionuclide scanner. This machine produces an image of the area for analysis by the medical team.
This test is performed in a radiology facility, either in a hospital department or an outpatient x-ray center. During the scan, the patient lies on his or her back on a table, but may be repositioned to the stomach or side during the study. The radionuclide scanner is positioned against the body part to be examined. Either the camera, the table, or both, may change position during the study. Depending on the type of scan, the procedure may take anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes. It is important for the patient not to move except when directed to do so by the technologist.
Ellen S. Weber M.S.N., Paul A. Johnson Ed.M., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,