Nuclear Medicine is a specialised area of diagnostic imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and treat various diseases and conditions. This form of imaging can often detect abnormalities much earlier than other forms of imaging, such as X-Rays and CT scans.
Some nuclear medicine procedures require special preparation. Our booking consultants will advise you if any preparation is required upon scheduling your appointment. Some examinations require fasting, and some may require ceasing medications.
This test involves an injection of a radioactive material (radiopharmaceutical) into a vein (usually in the arm) followed by some immediate pictures. You will then need to return between 2-4 hours later for some more images.
Cerebral Perfusion Study
This scan looks at brain function by demonstrating the amount of blood taken up by the brain cells. It can show if some parts of the brain are working more than or less than normal. For this test, we will insert a cannula into a vein in your arm and then lie you in a dark room to rest completely for 30 minutes. During this time, we will give you an injection of a radiopharmaceutical in through this cannula which will highlight your brain for the camera. We then ask you to sit in the waiting room for a further 20 minutes to ensure all of our injection absorbs into the brain. Scanning is then commenced for 20 minutes.
Colloid Liver Scan
This test can be used to determine the size and the shape of the liver and the spleen as well as for detecting functional abnormalities of the reticuloendothelial cells of these organs. This involves an injection of a radiopharmaceutical into a vein in your arm. Images are obtained 15 minutes later which generally take 30 minutes.
Colonic Transit Study
This test measures the movement of substances that enter and leave the colon over time. It evaluates disorders of colonic motility, ie. constipation.
You’ll be required to drink a small amount of radioactivity. We then image the bowel over the next 5 days. On Monday morning you will have the drink and then will return to the department 6 hours later for the first image. Thereafter, you will need to return each morning for a 10 minute image until Friday.
Exercise Stress Test
A stress test, sometimes called a treadmill test or exercise test, helps a doctor find out how well your heart copes with an increase in demand. As your body works harder during the test, it requires more oxygen, so the heart must pump more blood. The test can show if the blood supply is reduced in the arteries that supply the heart. Heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, electrocardiogram (ECG), and general fatigue levels are all monitored during the test.
Gastric Emptying Study
This test is used to determine how quickly food leaves your stomach. We will cook a nice breakfast for you (eggs on toast) and take images of your stomach throughout the day.
Gated Heart Pool Study
This test measures how well your heart is pumping.
The test involves an injection into a vein in the arm, then wait for 20 minutes and receive another injection and commence scanning immediately which is usually for approximately 25 minutes.
A gallium scan is used to look for inflammation, infection, or cancer in the body. This test requires an injection of radiopharmaceutical into a vein in the arm followed by images from 1 day to 7 days later, depending on the clinical indications
GI Bleeding Study
This test is used to localise the site of gastro-intestinal bleeding. This test involves removing some of your blood, labelling your blood so the camera can detect it, and then re-injecting your blood into your body so we can detect any abnormal bleeding.
This test is used to diagnose problems of the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. It involves an injection of a radiopharmaceutical into a vein in your arm with continuous images for the next hour. The injection travels through your bloodstream to your liver, and is then excreted into the bile. The tracer then travels into the gallbladder. You will then receive an infusion of CCK (cholecystokinin – which is a natural hormone which stimulates gallbladder contraction). Further imaging is acquired over the next hour (during the CCK infusion) to assess emptying of the gallbladder.
Labelled White Blood Cell
This scan detects infection in bones, joints and soft tissue as well as inflammation due to other causes such as inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease). We will take some of your blood and label it with a radioactive substance so that the camera can detect it. Then we will re-inject the blood back into your body an hour later and wait 3 hours before imaging commences.
Lymphoscintigraphy (Sentinel Node Detection)
This test is used to locate the sentinel lymph node prior to breast cancer and melanoma surgery. It involves between 2-4 injections around the area of interest which contain particles which travel along the lymphatic channels and into the lymph nodes. Images are taken of the body in order to pinpoint the lymph nodes for your surgeon.
This test is used to diagnose suspected upper or lower extremity Lymphedema. A total of four injections are given to the hand or foot (two for each side) and imaging commences straight away to trace the lymphatic channels. We look at the rate of travel and for any blockages. The scan usually takes an hour though further imaging out to 3 hours may be required.
This study is used to look for the presence of ectopic gastric mucosa in the small bowel. If this condition exists it can cause pain in the abdomen and blood in the stool. You will receive an injection of a radioactive material (radiopharmaceutical) into a vein in your arm and images will commence immediately.
Myocardial Perfusion Study
This test is used to evaluate the blood supply (perfusion) to the heart. Imaging of the blood supply to your heart is acquired before and after a stress test. The stress test is either an exercise stress test on a treadmill, or if treadmill exercise cannot be achieved, a medication to mimic exercise will be used. In order to obtain images of the heart, an injection of a radioactive material (radiopharmaceutical) is required into a vein in the arm.
Oesophageal Motility Study
This test attempts to determine whether or not there is an abnormal transit of solid and liquid through the oesophagus.
You’ll be required to stand upright against a camera and swallowing some water and small pieces of marshmallow labelled with a small amount of radioactive material.
The parathyroids are four small glands lying close to the surface of the thyroid gland in the front of your neck.
This test is used to look for enlarged or abnormally functioning parathyroid glands. It can assist the doctor to locate the abnormal gland. It is usually used in patients with elevated calcium levels due to a disorder called primary hyperparathyroidism.
You will receive an injection of a radiopharmaceutical into a vein in your arm and imaging of your neck will commence between 5-10 minutes afterwards, which will take 30 minutes. You are then required to return to the department 2-3 hours later for further imaging.
Red Blood Cell Liver Scan
This scan is for patients who have had a mass in the liver detected on other imaging such as CT and/or ultrasound. This scan is helpful to diagnose conditions such as hemangioma.
You will receive an injection into a vein in the arm, then wait 20 minutes and receive another injection and imaging will commence immediately which will take approximately 25 minutes. You are then required to return to the department for further imaging approximately 3 hours later.
This scan is performed to look at the blood supply, function and excretion of urine from the kidneys. It will determine what percentage each kidney contributes to total kidney function and how well urine is excreted into the bladder.
You will receive a small cannula into the vein of your arm which stays in for the duration of the test. Through this a radiopharmaceutical is injected in order to highlight the kidneys for the camera. After 20 minutes of scanning, you may be given a second injection of Lasix (diuretic) which causes the kidneys to make more urine. We then image for a further 20 minutes.
Renal Cortical DMSA
This test accurately assesses function throughout the kidney. It also measures the function of each kidney relative to the other. The scan is very sensitive for detecting renal scars or active infection. You will receive an injection of a radiopharmaceutical into a vein in your arm which will highlight the kidneys for the camera. You will then be asked to return to the department approximately 3 hours later for the scan.
This scan provides information about the function and the structure of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland consists of two lobes and is located in the lower part of the front of your neck. For this test, you will receive an injection of a radiopharmaceutical into a vein in your arm, and then wait for 20 minutes for the injection to absorb into the thyroid. Images will then commence which take around 20 minutes.
VQ Lung scan
This scan is used to detect blood clots in the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). This test can also be used to determine the function of the lungs prior to surgery for emphysema.
This scan is carried out in two parts. For the first part, a radioactive material is breathed in and images are acquired straight after to look at the airflow to the lungs. For the second part, a radiopharmaceutical is injected into a vein in the arm and more images are acquired to look at the blood flow to the lungs.
Nuclear medicine imaging uses radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers.
Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam, the radiotracer is either injected, ingested or in haled and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of the body being examined. Radioactive emissions from the radiotracer are detected by a gamma camera to produce images and provide functional information.
There are many different nuclear medicine scans and procedures, all of which have different durations. Some tests take as little as 30-minutes, and some require several appointments over 2 – 6 hours. For example, bone scans require an initial visit followed by another visit several hours later in the day. You are free to leave the department between initial and subsequent appointments.
Our booking consultants will advise you of the procedure duration upon scheduling your appointment.
- Your original referral or request form
- Medicare and any Government concession pension or health care cards
- Previous relevant imaging
Yes, but in most cases we do not perform nuclear medicine procedures on pregnant women, unless a medical benefit outweighs any potential risks.
Breastfeeding mothers may undergo a nuclear medicine procedure but may need to cease breastfeeding for a period of time following the scan. Breast milk should be expressed and discarded during this period.