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Nuclear Medicine Imaging

Nuclear medicine is a safe, painless and non-invasive way to image the body through the use of computers and special cameras in conjunction with small amounts of radioactive substances that are introduced into the body. Nuclear imaging techniques go a step beyond standard X-rays and MRIs because they can show not only an organ’s anatomy, but how it is functioning. That’s critical information that otherwise would be unavailable, require surgery, or more expensive diagnostic tests.

Nuclear medicine is rapidly becoming the first choice for detecting early signs of disease, small tumors and even infections. BayCare Health System is leading the way, putting into use some of the most advanced techniques and technologies available.

Uses and Advantages

Nuclear medicine imaging techniques are often used to study organs such as the thyroid, heart, stomach and kidneys.

Advantages of nuclear medicine imaging include:

  • Detection of abnormalities early in the progression of a disease, which means prompt treatment and more successful outcomes
  • Provides information before the condition is apparent with other diagnostic tests
  • Offers procedures that are helpful to a broad span of medical specialties, from pediatrics to cardiology to psychiatry

A Variety of Services, A Multitude of Benefits

While there are nearly 100 different types of nuclear medicine imaging procedures, BayCare Health System offers these techniques at imaging locations throughout our system:

  • PET (Positron Emission Tomography): for studying metabolic activity and detecting conditions such as nervous system problems, epilepsy and some cancers
  • SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography): helps determine a patient’s risk of having a heart attack
  • Cardiovascular Imaging: detects blood flow irregularities. A MUGA (Multigated Acquisition) scan, for example, which studies the motion of the heart walls, shows how well the heart is pumping out blood as well as how effectively the main chamber is working. Thallium stress tests are also performed at a number of our centers.
  • Bone Scanning: helps detect bone cancer, diagnosis unexplained pain, view breaks, fractures and other types of bone damage.

Determining the appropriate test for you depends on your symptoms and the condition being diagnosed. Rest assured that whatever the reason, BayCare Health System can provide you with the expertise needed to for an accurate and successful exam.

Nuclear Imaging Preparation

How do I prepare for the exam?

  • A BayCare Imaging Professional will call you prior to your appointment to provide specific instructions, as preparation for your nuclear medicine scan will vary depending upon the type of exam you are scheduled to receive. The representative will also verify your health and insurance information.
  • If available, please bring previous imaging study results (MRI, CT scan, X-rays), such as reports or films.
  • Notify a BayCare Imaging Professional if you are nursing or if there is a chance you may be pregnant.
  • Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment to verify your registration information.

What should I expect during the exam?

  • Nuclear medicine uses a small, safe amount of radioactive "tracer" or contrast (dye) agent that goes to specific organs, bones or tissues.
  • The tracer is administered orally or by an IV injection in your arm. It may take a few minutes to five hours for the tracer to reach the specific area to be studied. If there is a long wait period, you will be free to leave the center and return for your scan several hours later.
  • You will lies on a padded table. Once in position, the tracer emits gamma rays that are detected by special camera. The tracer works with computers to form images that provide data about the body area in question.
  • The nuclear medicine scan takes approximately 30-60 minutes.
  • These procedures are very safe. The amount of radiation needed for the exam is minimal (comparable to a diagnostic X-ray) and the body eliminates the tracer material typically within 24 hours.
  • Drinking extra water will help remove the tracer more quickly.

What happens after the exam?

  • A radiologist who specializes in a specific area of the body will review your images.
  • The radiologist prepares a diagnostic report to share with your doctor.
  • Your doctor will consider this information in context of your overall care and talk with you about the results.

To make an appointment, please call:

Hillsborough County: (813) 635-3610
Pinellas/Pasco Counties: (727) 461-8555

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