What is nuclear medicine?
Nuclear medicine technology uses radioactive isotopes to obtain images that give the physician information from within the body. A radioactive isotope is attached to a drug that is attracted to a specific area or function within the body, and the drug is then injected into the patient’s vein. Some time is allowed to elapse so the drug can spread throughout the body, and then the patient is placed in front of a “camera” that captures the radiation coming from inside the body. Information about what this drug is collecting within the body gives the physician information that can help diagnose or treat a disease. These exams can focus on any organ. Regional West Medical Center has three nuclear medicine cameras. One is a single head camera and the other two are dual head cameras.
Most nuclear medicine exams last about 15 minutes for the injection, and about one hour for the camera. Nuclear medicine exams are scheduled from 7 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. Your primary care physician must refer you to the nuclear medicine team. At least one day advance notice is needed so the isotope can be ordered, since the isotope and drug needed for the exams are created specifically for each patient for his or her size and appointment time. Because these drugs expire within hours, it is very important to be on time for a nuclear medicine exam and to let the Imaging Services Department know more than one day ahead if you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment. You can cancel or reschedule by calling Scheduling Services at 308-630-2700. To reach the Imaging Services front desk, call 308-630-1140.
What to expect if you are a patient
For a nuclear medicine exam, patients first come to the Imaging Services Department and receive the isotope injection into a vein. You can then leave for a period of time, and return after the isotope has had time to circulate throughout the body. You will be asked to change into hospital pajamas, and then lie on a table, or sit or stand next to the camera. The camera then measures the radioactivity coming from within the body and computers create an image that shows the location where the radioactivity is coming from. Collections of the isotope will create bright spots, often called “hot spots” on the image. These hot spots may indicate normal function or abnormal conditions
While in the Nuclear Medicine Department, you will be cared for by a registered radiologic technologist. This is a person specially trained in performing nuclear medicine exams and is certified in this specialty by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).
The completed images are examined by a board certified radiologist who is an expert in interpreting nuclear medicine. The report is then sent directly to your physician, who will contact you with the results.