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Nuclear Medicine is a safe and relatively painless diagnostic technique which involves the use of a very small amount of a radioactive substance to study the functions of various organs within the body and, thus, aid in establishing diagnosis.
Blood circulates through every organ of the body, transporting oxygen and nutrients to the organs and removing waste products away from the organs. When a disease is present, there is usually a change in the blood supply and function of the affected organ. Nuclear Medicine tests are useful in determining specific organ function to see if it is affected by disease.
Most tests do not require any preparation. However, the following tests require that you DO NOT eat or drink for four hours prior to the study:
If there are any other specific instructions to follow, you will be advised at the time your appointment is made as well as at the time of appointment confirmation.
Bring a list of all present medications.
Prior to the test, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire. Please read it carefully and answer the questions to the best of your knowledge. If you have any questions about the test, ask the technologist. He or she can explain the entire procedure before it begins.
The radioisotope will be injected into a vein in your arm and is carried by the blood stream to the organ under investigation. Sometimes the pictures are taken immediately after the injection and sometimes you will have to wait for a while. Depending on the test, the substance may need time to reach the organ being studied.
The technologist will take pictures of your body. You will have to lie down on a special table and a gamma camera, that can detect radiation, will visualize the radioactive substance in your body. The camera is positioned close to your body and, if you have three-dimensional pictures taken, then it will slowly rotate around you taking pictures as it moves. It takes 20-40 minutes to take the pictures and it is important to lie as still as possible during this time to avoid blurring the images.
A written report will be sent to your physician upon completion of analysis of the test. Your physician will then explain the test results to you.
Most tests last approximately one hour. However, some tests require you to come back for a second set of pictures. You will be advised about the duration of the test when you make your appointment.
Most scans involve less radiation than that required for X-ray procedures and is only slightly above radiation you already receive from all naturally occurring sources (food, air, water, ground and materials).
The radiation you receive is not felt, seen, smelled or tasted, nor does it make you or your clothing radioactive.
The compounds used during the test are quickly eliminated from the body – usually within hours, or at the most, a few days – without leaving any trace or effect.
However, negligible amounts may be detected for up to 6 weeks by the sensitive radiation detectors in cross border and airport securities.
The tests are considered to be among the safest diagnostic tests available.
You will be able to drive after the test. Please inform the technologist if you will be traveling by airplane, train or crossing the border within six weeks after your test for a letter confirming the test was performed.
An adverse reaction is extremely rare. Many people have had these tests before with no complications.
If you are pregnant or there is a possibility of pregnancy, or if you are breastfeeding, these test may be inappropriate for you at this time.