Nuclear Medicine Scan

Having a Nuclear Medicine Scan

Your child has been scheduled for a nuclear medicine scan. Please arrive 20 minutes before your child's scheduled exam. This will allow time for you to register your child for the exam.

Please bring:

  • Your child's insurance card
  • A list of any medicines (prescription and over the counter) that your child is currently taking
  • Your child's immunization record
  • Your child's Express ID Card, if you have one

What Is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the medical specialty that uses a very small amount of radioactive medicine to diagnose or treat disease. When this radioactive medicine is introduced into your child's body, it allows a special camera (gamma) to transform this information into images. The images provide information to the radiologist (X-ray doctor), which will give the doctor information about the body part being imaged.

Nuclear medicine is a safe, painless and cost-effective way of gathering information that may otherwise be unavailable. Nuclear medicine tests are more sensitive and specific for disease detection than most diagnostic tests.

Getting Ready for the Test

When you arrive at the Radiology Department, one of the nuclear medicine technologists (the person who will be doing your child's exam) will explain how the exam will be done.

Some questions will be asked about allergies. This is important information to know before any medicines are given to your child. Your child will then be taken into a room where there will be a large camera over a special table. Your child will be asked to change into a gown. This is to keep buttons and zippers from showing up on your child's picture.

During the Test

The nuclear medicine technologist will weigh your child. The technologist will help your child lie on the table and ask your child to be very still for the pictures.

An IV may be started. An IV is a small plastic tube inserted with a needle in your child's hand or arm. It is very important that your child hold very still while the IV is started. Your support as a parent is important.

The camera will be moved over your child's body. It will not hurt or touch your child.

The medicine is generally injected into an arm vein but it can also be given by mouth. The type of medicine you receive will depend upon what test is being done.

Once the medicine has been injected, your child may be asked to wait a period of time before imaging begins. The waiting time can vary (from a few hours to a few days) depending on the type of test you are having. This waiting period is necessary because the medicine needs time to get into the area of your child's body being studied.

As pictures are taken, your child will be positioned under the camera that will be placed close to the part of the body being examined. Special instructions will be given during the exam. Movement during certain tests could result in blurred pictures. Your child will be asked to hold very still.

The camera does not produce radiation. It only records information from the small amount of radioactive medicine that was given earlier.

After the Test

There is a short wait while the pictures are reviewed. When everything is finished, your child will be released. The radiologist will then tell your child's doctor the results of the test. If your child was asked to temporarily stop taking any medication prior to the test or if your child's doctor changed his/her usual dosage because of the test, be sure to ask when and if your child should resume taking the medications.

Commonly Asked Questions about the Exam

Are nuclear medicine procedures safe?
Nuclear medicine procedures are very safe. Your child only receives an extremely small amount of radioactive medicine. In fact, the amount of radiation in a nuclear medicine test is no more than that received during an X-ray. Most radioactive medicine is passed quickly from the body through normal bodily functions. Drinking plenty of water or liquids after an exam will help to remove the medicine more quickly. Side effects or adverse reactions from the medicine are rare, and your child will feel no effect from the medicine itself.

Who is involved in a nuclear medicine test?
A pediatric-trained nuclear medicine technologist, who is licensed by the state of Texas, performs the test. A pediatric radiologist that is licensed by the state of Texas reads the pictures.

Could my child have a reaction from the medicine used in the exam?
Contrast reactions in children are rare. However, any child could experience one. Children at higher risk are those having: asthma, sensitivity to medicines or an allergen (anything that can cause an allergic reaction), heart failure and those less than 12 months of age.

Possible reactions are feeling warm, nausea, vomiting, hives, congestion, trouble breathing, sometimes apnea (stop breathing), chest pain and as with many given medicines there is a possibility of a severe reaction, which could result in death.