What is nuclear medicine?
Nuclear medicine technology uses radioactive isotopes to obtain images that give the physician or provider 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. The drug is then injected into the patient’s vein. After the drug has spread through the body, the patient is placed in front of a “camera” that captures the radiation coming from inside the body. These images give the physician or provider information that can help diagnose or treat a disease. These exams can focus on any organ. Regional West has three nuclear medicine cameras. One is a single head camera and the other two are dual head cameras.
Most nuclear medicine exams take about 15 minutes for the injection, and about 60 minutes for the camera. Nuclear medicine exams are scheduled from 7 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. Your primary care physician or provider must refer you to the nuclear medicine team. Since the isotope and drug needed for the exams are created specifically for each patient and his or her appointment time, we need at least one day’s notice to order the isotope. Because these drugs expire within hours, it is important to be on time for a nuclear medicine exam or 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 during a Nuclear Medicine exam
For a nuclear medicine exam, you first come to the Imaging Services department and receive the isotope injection. You can then leave for a period of time and return after the isotope has had time to circulate through the body. We ask you to change into hospital pajamas and then lie on a table, sit, or stand next to the camera. The camera will then measure the radioactivity coming from within your body. 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.
During your exam, a registered radiologic technologist will care for you. This technologist is 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).
A board certified radiologist who specializes in interpreting nuclear medicine will examine the completed images. Then, they will send the report directly to your physician or provider, who will contact you with the results.