Nuclear imaging is a highly versatile medical imaging tool that can grant radiologists detailed images of your internal organs and tissues. Nuclear imaging is widely used to assess a variety of illnesses because of its ability to assess changes in your body on a molecular level. By detecting any abnormalities on a molecular level, nuclear imaging is an efficient medical imaging tool that can help diagnose a disease before symptoms occur. At Park Avenue Radiologists, we use nuclear imaging on multiple parts of the body to evaluate and diagnose a variety of illnesses and medical conditions.
What is nuclear imaging?
Nuclear Imaging is a specialized area of radiology that gathers images of organs and body functions through the emission of small amounts of radioactive materials. The radioactive materials are given orally in a pill form or through an intravenous injection. Using nuclear medicine, radiologists can evaluate kidney, cardiac, and thyroid function. Nuclear imaging can help diagnose a disease in its earliest stages. An early diagnosis allows for more time creating a successful treatment plan. Additionally, nuclear imaging can detect a disease before any symptoms become apparent or occur.
The radioactive material, also known as radiotracers, will travel to the area of the body being examined and will give off energy. This energy can then be detected by a highly specialized computer and camera, creating detailed images of your internal organs and tissues. Nuclear imaging provides a unique assessment of your health because it can view molecular activity and changes. Molecular activity is often what changes first when you have a disease or medical conditions. In some cases, nuclear imaging may be combined with a CT scan or MRI scan in order to gain even more detailed views of your body and its health.
What can nuclear medicine help diagnose?
Nuclear medicine and imaging can help diagnose cancers, bone fracture, infection, arthritis and tumors. In addition, nuclear imaging can help to detect the earliest signs of heart disease or disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system, or brain. Nuclear imaging for the heart can help visualize blood flow to detect coronary artery disease or other cardiac conditions. Radiologists may also analyze the blood flow to your lungs to evaluate overall lung health. For the endoskeleton, nuclear imaging can assess bones for any signs of tumors, fractures, disease, or weakness. Neurological nuclear imaging can also be used to detect certain neurological disorders or brain abnormalities. The uses of nuclear imaging extend to aiding physicians in diagnosing various cancers, abnormalities, and conditions of your body.
What can I expect from nuclear medicine?
There is little or no preparation for most nuclear medicine examinations. If a nuclear imaging test involves gastric emptying, fasting before your examination is required. For exams involving the kidneys, you may be asked to drink water prior to the procedure. Patients scheduling thyroid examinations should consult their physician for appropriate preparation. For the first day following a nuclear imaging study, most patients are instructed to drink plenty of fluids. The residual radioactive material decays normally and passes out of the body though urine and stool.
The radioactive markers that are needed for a nuclear scan are ordered specifically for each procedure, so appointments must be scheduled in advance. The radioactive material given to the patient is specific to the particular organ or function being imaged. Once injected or taken orally, the radiotracers will travel to the organ being studied. Depending upon the specific nuclear imaging test, it can take up to a few hours or overnight for the radiotracers to travel to the organ being evaluated. When the patient is ready to be scanned, they are placed on a scanning table. Patients are asked to stay as still as possible in order to obtain the clearest images possible. The accumulated radiotracers will then give off energy as gamma rays. The camera in the machine detects these gamma rays that are emitted, and detailed images of the organs and tissues are then produced by the computer.
How long is nuclear imaging tests, & when will I get my results?
Each nuclear imaging test varies in length depending on what you are having evaluated. Additionally, the length of your nuclear imaging exam will vary depending on how long it will take the radiotracers to travel to the organ that will be viewed. If you are unable to remain still during certain parts of the nuclear imaging test, additional scans may be needed, resulting in a longer procedure. While some nuclear imaging tests can be completed in just twenty minutes, more complex scans may take several hours to properly complete. Your physician will be able to give you an estimated procedure length prior to the day of your nuclear imaging test. Once your scan is completed, our team of radiologists will promptly begin to evaluate your nuclear imaging results. We will send a detailed report of our findings to your physician, who will then contact you to discuss your results.
How can I learn more about nuclear medicine?
Our radiologists at Park Avenue Radiologists would be happy to discuss nuclear imaging with you. For an appointment or additional information, please call 212.888.1000, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or request an appointment online.