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Nuclear Medicine/PET CT
Kristi Takaki, MD
Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities within the body.
Nuclear medicine or radionuclide imaging procedures are noninvasive and usually painless medical tests that help physicians diagnose medical conditions. These imaging scans use radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers.
Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the radiotracer is either injected into a vein, swallowed or inhaled as a gas and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of your body being examined, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays. This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera, a (positron emission tomography) PET scanner and/or probe. These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and tissues.
In some centers, nuclear medicine images can be superimposed with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce special views, a practice known as image fusion or co-registration. These views allow the information from two different studies to be correlated and interpreted on one image, leading to more precise information and accurate diagnoses. In addition, manufacturers are now making PET/CT units that are able to perform both imaging studies at the same time.
It depends on the isotope. For most scans with technetium, half the isotope is gone by natural decay every 6 hours plus your body eliminates it primarily through your urine. This combination equals approximately 4.8 hours to half to be eliminated. Drink water and void often to speed up the process.
It depends on the scan, but you should be able to eat most things. We say nothing to eat (ask about drinking) for at least an hour after I-123 and I-131 pills. For bone imaging, we encourage the patient to drink extra water to flush the isotope from the soft tissues of the body.
No, it will not make you sleepy.
CCK (Cholecystokinin) is used with most HIDA scans - it is a medication we inject that causes the gallbladder to contract - we can then measure how well it is working. This medication can cause nausea and cramping which typically last about 5 minutes.
You will not feel anything from the isotope. The only caveat would be for Cholecystokinin (CCK) which can cause nausea and cramping.