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What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear Medicine, which includes molecular imaging, is the medical specialty that utilizes sealed and unsealed radioactive materials in the diagnosis and therapy of various diseases. Nuclear Medicine refers to medicine (a pharmaceutical) that is attached to a small quantity of radioactive material (a radioisotope). The combination is called a radiopharmaceutical. The pharmaceutical part of the radiopharmaceutical is designed to go to a specific place in the body where there could be disease or an abnormality. The radioactive part of the radiopharmaceutical that emits radiation, known as gamma rays, is then detected using a special camera called a gamma camera. Nuclear Medicine also includes the utilization of pharmaceuticals (as adjunctive medications) to enhance the evaluation of the physiologic process at the molecular level. Nuclear Medicine provides doctors with information about structure and function of organs. Radiopharmaceuticals are introduced into the patient's body by injection, swallowing (oral) or inhalation.
The Nuclear Medicine Department at Penrose Hospital is ACR Accredited in Planar, SPECT and Cardiac Imaging. Our dedicated staff is registered through the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Common Nuclear Medicine procedures that may be ordered by your provider include the following along with preparations and approximate exam times:
This exam involves imaging the skeletal structure. The exam may be
considered a whole body exam in which the entire skeleton is imaged
anteriorly and posteriorly along with standard oblique images of the
trunk area of the body. The bone scan may be a limited exam in which
one area is imaged (such as knees or lower back). The bone scan can be
ordered for numerous reasons including: Abnormal blood tests or x-rays,
fever, or unexplained pain. It may be ordered to evaluate bones for
fracture, infection or arthritis. It also may be ordered to evaluate
painful prosthetic joints, and a work up for possible metastatic
How to prepare for a bone scan:
This exam is normally ordered for the evaluation of respiratory or
blood flow problems such as blood clots in the lungs or pulmonary
emboli. The test is ordered for patients with unexplained chest pain or
shortness of breath. The exam may be ordered for abnormal lab results (
d-dimer) and may be ordered as an alternative to CT imaging of the
pulmonary arteries when a patient has an iodine allergy and or has
elevated renal function tests that do not allow CT imaging. On occasion
the exam is ordered for the evaluation of split lung function when a
patient may be undergoing surgery for removal of a lobe of the lung or
an entire lung.
How to prepare for a lung scan:
This exam is a functional assessment of the hepatobiliary system.
The exam is ordered for the suspicion of cholecystitis or suspected
common bile duct obstruction. Other reasons to order the exam are for
right upper quadrant pain with or without nausea or vomiting, evaluation
of the hepatobiliary system with or without cholelithasis. The hida
scan also evaluates the contraction of the gallbladder after
pharmaceutical intervention, called the ejection fraction (using
sincalide/cholecystokinin). Occasionally the exam is ordered post
cholecystectomy to evaluate the biliary system for bile leak or
obstruction of the biliary tree.
How to prepare for a HIDA Scan:
This exam evaluates the rate in which the stomach empties. The exam
is ordered by providers with a diagnosis of nausea or vomiting. Other
reasons to evaluate the gastric emptying time is for abdominal pain,
diabetes, bloating. Other reasons to evaluate the stomach are for
gastroparesis, gastric outlet syndrome and possibly rapid gastric
emptying or "dumping." For a gastric emptying study the patient eats a
meal in which a solid component (egg) are mixed with a
radiopharmaceutical. The patient will also be given bread and water for
the exam to ingest. The meal must be eaten within 5 minutes.
How to prepare for a Gastric emptying exam:
This exam is ordered for the possible diagnosis of hyperthyroidism
(Graves's disease, Multinodular Goiter, or toxic adenoma). It is also
useful in the diagnosis of active or inactive nodules. Other reasons to
order the exam are for abnormal thyroid blood tests, abnormal ultrasound
or CT of neck. The uptake portion is a calculation that determines
whether the thyroid in functioning in a normal range. The scan allows
us to image the thyroid to determine shape, size and functionality of
How to prepare for a thyroid uptake and scan:
This exam is ordered to analyze the split function of the kidneys.
It is also useful in detecting urinary tract obstruction and helpful in
evaluating hypertension related to the kidney or renal arteries. Other
reasons to order the exam are for flank or back pain, abnormal blood or
How to prepare for a renal scan:
This exam is useful in detmining blood flow and function to the
myocardium (myocardial perfusion scan). It helpful in detecting
coronary artery disease and the extent of blockage or stenosis. It is
useful in assessing damage to the heart following a heart attack and for
evaluating treatment options such as coronary bypass or angioplasty.
How to prepare for a cardiac imaging scan:
Please call Imaging and Radiology Services at 719-776-5242 for exam preparations for the following:
Nuclear Medicine PET/CT scans are not performed at the hospital. To schedule a Nuclear Medicine test at Penrose Hosptial, call Scheduling Services at 719-776-8010.
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