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) is given to the patient and special cameras are used to take pictures of the body.
We encourage you to read over the following booklet What Is Nuclear Medicine? provided by the Society of Nuclear Medicine. 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.
It is important to note that all Nuclear Medicine procedures are offered at the Markham site, however, only bone mineral density testing (BMD) is available at the Uxbridge Cottage Hospital location.
What You Should Know
- Before you visit
Preparation varies depending on the nuclear medicine test or scan that you are having. Please click here to view the general Patient Preparation Instructions and see if there are preparations to follow for your appointment.
Click here to view more detailed explanations of each kind of nuclear medicine procedure.
Click here to view the general nuclear medicine brochure with more information.
- After your visit
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 other specially-trained physician will interpret your images. For some nuclear medicine studies the radiologist finds 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.
- Care providers
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 - About MRTs.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is a bone density the same as a bone scan?
No. A bone density test (also called a BMD) is a very quick procedure (about 20 minutes) and measures “how strong” (i.e. the density) of our bones – it offers a risk factor for osteoporosis. A bone scan is a lengthy procedure (several hours) that involves a radioactive injection and series of images be taken to look for any abnormalities in the skeleton or in specific bones of the body.
- I will be travelling after my test and have heard I may get stopped at the airport or the border?
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 documentation that states you have had a recent nuclear medicine test may help to shorten any delays when you cross a security checkpoint. Visit this weblink to read more about nuclear medicine patients being detected at security checkpoints.