When we hear the word nuclear, most of our minds travel to anxious thoughts of bombs and war, but the word holds a very different meaning in the world of medicine. You may have heard the term “nuclear medicine” thrown around, but what exactly is nuclear medicine?
Nuclear medicine uses radioactive tracers to show the function of different organs within the body. These tracers are most often given to the patient by intravenous injection, although some studies require the swallowing of a radioactive capsule. The camera used in nuclear medicine then detects the gamma rays being emitted from the patient, forming an image on the computer screen. For most studies performed in nuclear medicine, the radiation to the patient is comparable to that of a chest x-ray.
Advanced Medical Imaging (AMI) is the only facility in the Lincoln area to offer DaTscan™, a new test that helps physicians determine if a patient may have a parkinsonian syndrome (PS), the most well-known syndrome of those being Parkinson’s Disease (PD). DaTscan™ is a radiopharmaceutical that is administered prior to a SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) scan to help a radiologist see whether or not there is degeneration of dopamine transporters in the brain. Studying this degeneration, along with a patient’s changes in functioning helps physicians to determine if a patient’s symptoms may be related to a PS or rather an essential tremor (ET). Patients interested in finding out if this test could give them the answers they are looking for should ask their neurologist or primary care provider if a DatScan™ at AMI is right for them.
There are many different studies in nuclear medicine requiring many different preparations by the patient. Most often, your doctor’s office will give you specific directions for your test at the time of scheduling. If you have any questions regarding your test and the preparation required, please feel free to give us a call.
You will generally not have to change out of your clothes for a nuclear medicine procedure, but you will be required for some studies to remove any metal objects. As with any study in radiology, the patient should tell the technologist if there is a chance of pregnancy or if the patient is breastfeeding.
The nuclear medicine gamma camera is a large ring comprised of two cameras that sit 180 degrees of each other. The scanner is open on all sides, and the patient table is positioned in between the two scanners. The cameras are able to move up and down the length of the table, and are also able to rotate around the table. Studies in nuclear medicine vary in time, ranging from several minutes to several hours. Some studies involve scanning at different times during a single day, or some studies are carried out over several days.
A radiologist will determine if there are any abnormalities of the internal organs and bone structures. The radiologist’s interpretation will then be available to your physician 24 hours after your exam or via the patient portal. Your physician’s office will inform you about how to obtain your results.
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