Nuclear medicine is a diagnostic imaging specialty that assesses the condition of organ systems or body functions. During the exam, a small amount of a radioactive tracer (called a radiopharmaceutical) will be given to you and special cameras will be used to take pictures of your body.
It is important to note that nuclear medicine procedures are offered at Markham Stouffville Hospital; however, only bone mineral density testing (BMD) is available at Uxbridge Hospital.
Nuclear medicine tests are performed by medical radiation technologists (also known as MRTs) who have specialized in nuclear medicine technology. To learn more about these health professionals see the College of Medical Radiation Technologists of Ontario.
To have a nuclear medicine test, your doctor needs to fill out a referral form. Download nuclear medicine referral form.
We encourage you to learn more about nuclear medicine by visiting the website for the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. It addresses many questions patients often have about nuclear medicine as a diagnostic tool, its safety, and the concerns about radiation involved with many of the tests. Since the procedures practiced in our own department may be slightly different from the internet-based booklet, we recommend that you review the information about tests the nuclear medicine department provides below.
Before Your Nuclear Medicine Test
Preparation varies depending on the nuclear medicine test or scan that you are having.
For more information about this test, download our general nuclear medicine brochure.
After Your Nuclear Medicine Test
You may resume normal activities immediately, unless the technologist or physician tells you otherwise. We also suggest that you increase your fluids over the next day to help eliminate any residual radioactive tracer from your body.
A radiologist or another specially-trained physician will interpret your images. For some nuclear medicine studies, the radiologist may find it useful to have other pictures or X-rays taken after your nuclear medicine scan, to help enhance the diagnostic report that will be sent to your doctor. If additional images are required, we will do our best to fit this imaging in before you leave the department that day.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nuclear Medicine
No. A bone mineral density test (also called a BMD) is a very quick procedure (about 20 minutes) and measures “how strong” your bones are (i.e., your bone density); it helps determine your risk for osteoporosis. A bone scan is a lengthy procedure (several hours) that involves a radioactive injection. A series of images are taken to look for any abnormalities in the skeleton or in specific bones of the body.
Please discuss this with the technologist before completing your test. Radiation detectors have commonly been installed at airports and security checkpoints, and the tracer used for your nuclear medicine test may be detected by these monitors. Travelling with a note from Oak Valley Health stating you have had a recent nuclear medicine test may help to explain if you seem to be setting off a radiation alarm at a security checkpoint.