Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear Medicine is a functional imaging modality where small amounts of radioactive pharmaceuticals are administered to the patient to trace a process within the body.

Nuclear medicine provides unique functional and physiological information to diagnose problems that often cannot be gained from other imaging examinations.

  • WHAT IS NUCLEAR MEDICINE

    Nuclear Medicine is a functional imaging modality where small amounts of radioactive pharmaceuticals are administered to the patient to trace a process within the body. This allows us to image the molecular activity within the body, offering the potential to identify early-stage disease, as well as immediate response to therapeutic interventions. Depending on the type of pharmaceutical used, we can image different areas of the body.

    Once administered to a patient, the radioactive pharmaceutical (‘radiopharmaceutical’) emits gamma rays which are detected by a gamma camera. A computer processes the resulting signals to produce images of organs and tissues. These images are analysed by a radiologist to measure various functions throughout the body.

    Nuclear Medicine provides unique functional and physiological information to diagnose problems that often cannot be gained from other imaging examinations. This information is used to implement the best health care for patients.

    Within Nuclear Medicine, larger amounts of radiation can also be administered to patients in order to treat certain diseases, mainly cancers.

  • BEFORE A NUCLEAR MEDICINE SCAN

    If a patient is pregnant or suspect that she might be pregnant, this information should be included on the request form and staff should be advised when the booking is made.

    If the patient is breastfeeding, it is important that staff are aware of this. Breastfeeding patients will be given specific instructions, which depending on the procedure may require cessation of breastfeeding for a short period of time.

    Patients will be advised at the time of booking if they are required to fast or cease any medications prior to their examination.

    Upon arrival, some examinations may require the patient to complete a questionnaire form to obtain information that will assist in the interpretation of the scan. Females of child bearing age will also be asked to complete a pregnancy and breastfeeding questionnaire prior to the examination.

  • DURING A NUCLEAR MEDICINE SCAN

    A Nuclear Medicine Technologist will administer the radioactive tracer. Depending on the procedure, this will either be injected into a vein in the arm, swallowed or inhaled. The patient will feel a slight pinprick when the tracer is injected and in rare cases, experience a metallic taste for a short time.

    The time required for imaging will depend on the study performed. Most examinations require between 30- 60 minutes of imaging; however, some scans may require longer or further imaging in the following days. The patient will be advised at the time of booking.

    The patient will lie down on a padded bed and a gamma camera will pass over. Some examinations require this to pass over the head. Please inform staff if you are claustrophobic at all to discuss options.

  • AFTER A NUCLEAR MEDICINE SCAN

    You will be notified of any post procedure instructions prior to departure. The majority of the time you will be instructed to maintain hydration throughout the remainder of the day.

    One of our radiologists will interpret the scan and provide your referring doctor with a comprehensive report about the findings. The results of your scan will be sent directly to your referring doctor, and it is very important you book a timely follow-up appointment to discuss your results.

    At South Coast Radiology, the majority of Nuclear Medicine scans attract a full Medicare rebate. If an out of pocket expense will be incurred, the patient will be informed at the time of booking.

  • PATIENT SAFETY

    The radiation dose will depend on the study performed. The technologist will use the lowest dose possible to achieve high quality images. In most cases the radiation dose is less than that received from a CT scan and is similar to what is received from a few months of background radiation from the environment.

    Nuclear Medicine has no known long-term adverse effects on patients. The risk of allergic reaction to the radiopharmaceutical is extremely low.

    The radiation exposure risk to children and pregnant females is extremely low, but following certain Nuclear Medicine procedures, patients will be advised to avoid close prolonged contact with small children or pregnant females for a short period of time. This information will be provided at the time of booking.

Find out more about the services we offer in this area

Please note; not all services are listed below, and not all services are available at every site

SPECT/CT

Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) is a type of Nuclear Medicine image that provides a three-dimensional view of the body. It is not needed for all Nuclear Medicine examinations, but when it used, the sensitivity of the Nuclear Medicine images increases and diagnostic confidence is improved.

SPECT imaging typically takes 15 minutes and the gamma camera slowly rotates around the patient acquiring images over 360 degrees. The computer then reconstructs these images to produce 3D views.

SPECT imaging is usually performed in conjunction with a low dose CT scan (SPECT/CT). This further improves the image quality and allows accurate anatomical localisation and interpretation of the Nuclear Medicine scan. CT imaging is performed on the same camera, often negating the need to send patients for dedicated CT imaging.

SPECT/CT is available at all Nuclear Medicine locations.

Bone Scan

A Nuclear Medicine bone scan is a 2-part procedure and used to image a large range of conditions that can affect the bones and/or joints. This can include fractures, arthritis, cancers, infection and assessment of any bone related pain.

The first part of the procedure involves an injection of a radioactive phosphate into a view in the arm. Depending on the reason for the scan, the Nuclear Medicine Technologist may take some images during this injection to assess the blood flow and soft tissue around the area of interest.

The patient will be asked to return for delayed imaging and this will occur from 2-5 hours after the injection. The exact time will be given during the first part of the examination. During this waiting period the tracer is being absorbed into the bones. It is recommended to drink extra fluids in order to maintain hydration and clear out excess radioactive tracer from the body. Patients do not need to remain within the department during this period, but it is important that they return on time.

During delayed imaging, the radioactive phosphate is now inside the bones, and imaging takes approximately 30-45minutes. SPECT/CT imaging is often performed during bone scans to increase the sensitivity of the examination.

Following the bone scan, it is recommended to maintain hydration throughout the remainder of day. A Radiologist will interpret the scan and the report will be provided to the referring doctor.

MP Scan

MYOCARDIAL PERFUSION SCAN

Myocardial Perfusion Scans (MPS) are performed to assess the blood supply to the heart muscle. This blood supply to the heart can be reduced as a result of a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels. Reduced blood supply can result in symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath and reduced exercise tolerance. Myocardial Perfusion scans are often performed prior to major surgery such as a joint replacement to ensure the heart is healthy enough to tolerate the stress of surgery.

The patient will be present in the department for several hours for an MPS, where a ‘rest’ and ‘stress’ examination will be performed.

During the REST examination a Nuclear Medicine Technologist will insert a cannula into a vein in the arm and a radioactive tracer is given. This tracer is taken into the heart muscle according to the amount of blood flow through the vessels. Approximately 30 minutes after this injection, the patient is imaged on the gamma camera. Imaging takes 15 minutes.

Following the REST examination, the patient will be cared for by one of our experienced nurses and a Radiologist for the STRESS examination.

During the stress examination, an ECG machine will be connected to monitor the heart activity. The stress examination is performed either by walking on a treadmill or by using a medication. Our Nurse and Radiologist will discuss the best option for the patient on the day. Once the heart has reached an appropriate level of ‘stress’, the radioactive tracer is re-injected. Following the stress test, eating and drinking is permitted and imaging will occur approximately 45-60 minutes afterwards. The images take 15 minutes.

It is essential that the correct preparation is followed for this examination. The patient will be advised to cease certain blood pressure medications for 48 hours beforehand. Any food or drink containing caffeine is not allowed for 12 hours prior to the appointment (this includes decaffeinated tea and coffee as a small amount of caffeine is still present). Patients must also fast 4 hours prior to their appointment.

At the time of booking, it is essential that patients inform us of any history of lung conditions such as severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A lung function test may be required prior to undergoing an MPS examination.

Following an MPS, it is recommended to maintain hydration throughout the remainder of the day. A Radiologist will interpret the scan and the report will be provided to the referring doctor.

MPS are available on Mondays at Pindara Private hospital, Tuesdays at John Flynn Hospital and Mackay Radiology, and Wednesdays at Darling Downs Radiology.

Renal Scan

A renal perfusion scan is used to assess the blood flow, the function and draining of the kidneys. It is used during the assessment of conditions that affect the kidneys such as poor renal function, obstruction, hydronephrosis and renal vascular disease.

Prior to the examination, patients are required to be adequately hydrated. It is recommended that up to 1L of water is consumed prior to the test (excluding patients on any fluid restrictions). Patients may empty their bladder normally.

During the examination, a cannula will be inserted into a vein in the arm and the patient positioned lying under the camera. A radioactive tracer is injected. This tracer is absorbed into the kidneys, filtered through the kidneys and excreted into the bladder. During the examination, a medication known as furosemide (Lasix) may also be given through the cannula. This medication is a diuretic and helps move the radioactive tracer through the kidneys faster. Patients will be asked to empty their bladder at the end of the scan, before returning to the camera for a second image. In total, imaging will take 30 -45 minutes.

If furosemide (Lasix) is given during the exam, patients may feel they need to empty their bladder more than usual for several hours after. It is recommended that hydration is maintained throughout the day as a result.

Upon completion of the exam, our radiologist will interpret the images and a report will be provided to the referring doctor.

Renal scans are available at all Nuclear Medicine locations.

Thyroid Scan

A Nuclear Medicine Thyroid scan is used to assess the size, shape and function of the thyroid gland. This information is useful in the assessment of conditions that an affect the thyroid glands function. This can include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroiditis and multi nodular goitre.

Upon arrival, the patient will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire about their history and symptoms. The patient will then receive an injection of a radioactive tracer into a view in their arm. This tracer is absorbed into the thyroid gland according to how the glad is functioning. Imaging commences 15-20 minutes post injection and a series of images around the neck area are taken.  This takes approximately 15 minutes. Patients should inform staff if they are claustrophobic.

When booking a thyroid scan, staff should be informed if the patient is taking any thyroid medications or has undergone a recent x-ray or CT examination involving an injection of iodinated contrast media. Patients will need to cease certain thyroid medications for several weeks prior to the examination to obtain an accurate result from the thyroid scan. Iodinated contrast media cannot be given 4-6 weeks prior to a thyroid scan.

A Radiologist will interpret the scan and the report will be provided to the referring doctor.

Thyroid scans are available at all Nuclear Medicine locations.

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