What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear medicine is used to determine how an organ is functioning. For example, nuclear medicine can be used to study how a damaged heart is functioning or how blood flow is restricted in parts of the brain. Other organs that can be imaged using nuclear medicine include the liver, kidneys, thyroid, bones, and many others.
During a nuclear medicine study, chemicals "tagged" with radionuclides that emit gamma rays are injected into the body. The chemicals collect in the area of the body that is to be studied. Images, which may be taken immediately or days after the injection, are obtained by using a gamma camera that detects the gamma rays and produces an image map called a scintigram.
Nuclear medicine studies provide information that can help your doctor diagnose and treat diseases in their early stages. Nuclear medicine, using radioactive substances, can also be used to treat certain diseases and conditions, such as overactive thyroid glands or thyroid tumors.
Preparing for a Nuclear Medicine Study
Generally, there are no special preparations that need to be made prior to having a nuclear medicine study. However, certain types of studies may require some preparation. For example, prior to having a thyroid uptake and scan, your doctor may ask that you avoid foods and medications with iodine for one week prior to the test. Your doctor or radiologist can advise you about any special instructions you may need to follow.