A nurse checks on a patient in the cancer ward

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Information for Consumers

A nuclear medicine scan is a non-invasive, painless procedure which will provide your doctor additional information to assist in treating you. Advances in modern medicine are such that many tests are used in a complimentary manner. Certain diseases are best shown by radiological (x-ray) techniques, others by nuclear medicine or a combination of both.

All nuclear medicine tests involve the administration of radiation.

For the majority of tests, you will need to be administered a small amount of a tracer called a radiopharmaceutical, most frequently this is administered  by an intravenous injection.  Alternative methods of administration are by inhalation or orally.  The doseages involved in the diagnostic tests are very low often comparable to the equivalent x-ray test.

Effects from the pharmaceutical are also negligible unless a pharmacologic effect is specifically required. The nature of the tests where treatment is desired necessarily requires that the radiation dose is high.

The duration of the test depends on the type of test your doctor has ordered. You may be administered the radiopharmaceutical and scanned three to five hours later or in some cases, twenty four and forty eight hours later.  Other tests may require images to be obtained immediately at administration time and up to an hour.

You may be referred to the Nursing Staff for assessment and preparation prior to the test or the technologist who will commence the test. At the completion of the entire scan, the Technologist processes the data and images and these are then sent to the Medical Staff for reporting

The machines on which Nuclear Medicine scans are performed are called Gamma Cameras. These Gamma Cameras do not emit ionising radiation as compared to conventional x-ray machines and are merely very sophisticated radiation detectors. In most cases, all that we require  is for you to  lie on your back on the bed.