Test Preparation
Nuclear Medicine

A nuclear medicine scan is a non-invasive procedure that uses a small and safe amount of radioactive material to help produce detailed images of the body. The material is inserted intravenously, swallowed, or inhaled into the body and travels through the areas that are being tested. The radioactive material (radiotracer) gives off energy and a device detects that energy. A computer measures and produces special images that allow the information to be interpreted.

Before the Test: There are many different types of nuclear medicine exams each with different methods of preparation. Consult your physician or the nuclear medicine clinic for more details on how to prepare for your specific exam.

You should avoid wearing jewelry or metallic items on your clothing to your test, as these affect the testing process.

During the Test: Depending on the type of test, you may be asked to remove your clothing and put on a gown. A technician or nurse may insert an intravenous line (IV) into your vein to administer the radiotracer. (Note: In some cases the radiotracer may need several days to travel through your body; in such instances, this step will be performed prior to your test date). You may experience minor sensations due to the insertion of the IV.

Once the radiotracer has accumulated in the testing area, a gamma camera will be positioned to the examination area and a series of images will be taken. You will be required to remain still, as movement will affect the scan. The time required for a nuclear medicine scan can vary greatly, from several minutes to several days. In some cases, you may leave and return when necessary.

You may also be asked to wait until the technician checks the images in the event that more images are required. This does not mean that there are abnormalities in your testing, but only that better visualization is needed.

Some tests may require you to perform exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. (You may be required to take medication that will increase blood flow if you are not able to exercise.)

After the Test: You will be able to return to your normal activities when the test is complete, unless your physician or technician tells you otherwise. If a radiotracer was used, drink plenty of water to help flush it from your system.

What to Bring: To avoid delays on the day of your test, ensure that you bring your health card and your requisition.