Nuclear Imaging

Nuclear Imaging is a method of obtaining diagnostic images by giving the patient a small dose of a radioactive isotope. Pictures are then taken with a special camera, which is able to detect the location of the radiopharmaceutical in the body and create images, which the physician can evaluate.

The radioisotope dose is given either by an IV injection in the arm, breathing an aerosol, or swallowing a capsule. The radioactive isotope is combined with a "tag" substance which will make it collect in the organ or system the doctor wants to evaluate. How the dose is given is determined by the area of the body that is being studied. The radiation dose to the body is comparable to an X-ray exam and there are no side effects with the materials used.

Here at Madison Regional Health System, a camera will be used to take these pictures, then the results are interpreted by a specialist in Sioux Falls.

Some examples require a delay after the dose is given and before the pictures are started. This delay is required to give the dose time to collect in the organ being studied. Bone scans, heart scans, and thyroid scans often have delays. Other exams, such as renal scans, start immediately after the dose is administered.

The patient may be asked to lie down or sit in front of the camera. The technologist will position the camera close to the area of the body that is to be imaged.

Scans range in time from a few minutes to several hours depending on the type of exam being done.

The camera does not have any effect on the body and the technologist makes the patient as comfortable as possible before starting the exam.

For many of the exams there are no special instructions to follow before the test; however, gallbladder or cardiac exams may require that the patient not eat for four hours prior to the test. Some tests may also require that certain medications be stopped. The patient should be instructed by their physician or the scheduling personnel at the facility prior to the test.

Nuclear medicine studies are different from most X-ray, Ultrasound, or CT examinations because they specialize in showing some aspect of the function of the body system being studied. Very simply, nuclear medicine studies look at how a specific organ is working (i.e. blood supply to the organ). Physicians often order an X-ray and a nuclear study to determine both structure and function.

For more information on our nuclear imaging program, contact cardiopulmonary services by calling 605-256-8639.

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