We offer outpatient nuclear medicine testing at our Boardwalk Imaging location in Irving, TX with a referral from a provider. Nuclear medicine is a test that is used to diagnose and treat illnesses and diseases. Continue reading to learn more about nuclear medicine and how it works.

What Is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is an imaging test that looks for radioactive materials in the body. It uses these materials to create digital images your doctor can review. Before this test, your doctor injects radioactive materials into your bloodstream known as radiotracers. They may also be given to you in a pill or as an inhalant.

Nuclear medicine can be used to diagnose an illness, treat an illness, monitor the progression of a disease, and determine whether your current treatments are working. Compared with other imaging tests like X-rays, nuclear medicine can show how your organs function as opposed to just showing their appearance.

What Is Nuclear Medicine Used For?

Nuclear medicine can help doctors see and evaluate the structure, appearance, and functioning of organs, bones, tissues, and systems.

Below are health conditions that can be assessed with nuclear medicine:

  • Heart disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Gastric dumping
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Bone conditions including fractures, infections, and cancer
  • Parathyroid issues
  • Respiratory problems
  • Brain abnormalities, including those related to memory loss and seizures

If you have heart disease, your doctor may use nuclear medicine to choose the best treatment option, such as heart surgery. If you recently had gallbladder surgery, this test may be used to look at any surgical problems you may have. If you frequently have seizures, your doctor may use this test to look at parts of the brain that are causing seizures so they can plan for surgery.

These are some of many examples in which your doctor might use nuclear medicine.

How Does Nuclear Medicine Work?

The radiotracers you take for nuclear medicine are absorbed by your body tissues. They emit gamma rays that can be picked up by special cameras that scan your body. These cameras provide your doctor with detailed images of the inside of your body, which are seen on a computer screen. This allows your doctor to monitor the behaviors and movements of the radiotracers and diagnose your health problem.

Certain areas of your body will show large amounts of the radiotracers, which are known as “hot spots.” Hot spots normally reflect areas with high levels of activity. Areas with smaller amounts of the radiotracer are known as “cold spots,” which have less activity. Radiotracers do not produce side effects and emit a level of radiation lower than that emitted during a standard chest X-ray.

What Is the Prep Required for a Nuclear Medicine Test?

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your test. Each type of test has specific requirements based on the condition being treated or checked. For example, some tests may require you to fast for several hours.

Generally, your doctor will ask you about all the medications you are currently using, as some may interfere with the test. This includes prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbs. If necessary, your doctor may ask you to stop using one or more of these for a short time. Your doctor will also ask you whether you have allergies, are pregnant or nursing, or suffering from any illnesses or chronic medical conditions.

When you arrive for your appointment, your doctor will give you a gown to wear for the test. You will be asked to remove all jewelry, as it may affect your test results.

What Happens During a Nuclear Medicine Scan?

After you finish preparing for the test, your doctor will ask you to lie on a padded table, where a nurse will insert an intravenous (IV) line into your hand or arm. The nurse will then inject the radiotracers into your body. These materials usually take several seconds to travel throughout your body.

Your doctor will ask you to lie still as the cameras scan your body. You may be asked to get into different positions so the cameras can take pictures of certain areas. The doctor or nurse will guide you through each step of the process and tell you what to expect.

When the scan is complete, the nurse will remove the IV line from your arm and tell you to change back into your clothing. You can resume your usual activities after your appointment, as this test requires no downtime or recovery.

How Long Does a Nuclear Scan Take?

A nuclear scan can take anywhere between 20 minutes and several hours. Some patients may be tested for several days in a row. Your doctor can tell you how long testing will take based on your health situation.

What Are the Benefits Of Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine provides doctors with detailed information about how your organs and systems function. This test is often more precise and less costly than other tests and can be performed in a convenient outpatient setting.

This test is minimally invasive and produces no serious risks or side effects. This test can detect and identify diseases in their earliest stages so they can be treated right away before they get worse. Nuclear medicine is reliable and can help your doctor diagnose, treat, and assess many types of health conditions.

What Are the Risks From Nuclear Medicine?

The potential benefits of nuclear medicine far outweigh the risks, especially considering how the amount of radiation emitted by this test is lower than that emitted by a standard X-ray. Nuclear medicine produces no known long-term effects, though women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not have this test because it may harm fetuses and nursing infants. Some patients may experience an allergic reaction to the radiotracers, though this is extremely rare and produces a mild reaction when it does happen.

Healthcare Associates of Texas offers outpatient nuclear medicine testing and can work with you to treat your medical condition. Call us today at (972) 258-7499 to make an appointment or request an appointment on our website.