Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive materials (radiopharmaceuticals), to examine organ function and structure. Nuclear medicine imaging is a combination of many different disciplines, including chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer technology and medicine. This branch of radiology is often used to help diagnose and treat abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease, such as thyroid cancer. Because x-rays pass through soft tissue, (such as intestines, muscles, and blood vessels), these tissues are difficult to visualize on a standard x-ray unless a contrast agent is used to cause the tissue to be seen more clearly.

Nuclear imaging enables visualization of organ and tissue structure as well as their function. The extent to which a radiopharmaceutical is absorbed, or taken-up, by a particular organ or tissue may indicate the level of function of the organ or tissue being studied. Thus, diagnostic x-rays are used primarily to study anatomy, whereas nuclear imaging is used to study organ and tissue function.

Nuclear medicine scans are used to diagnose many medical conditions and diseases. Some of the more common nuclear examinations include renal scans, thyroid scans, bone scans, gallium scans and brain scans.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

Nuclear medicine examinations are among the safest diagnostic procedures available and are utilized to evaluate many types of disease and disorders of the human body.

Nuclear Medicine procedures are performed to evaluate:

  • Kidney function or urinary function
  • Blood flow and function of the heart
  • The lungs for respiratory and blood-flow problems
  • The gallbladder to identify a blockage
  • Bones for fracture, infection, arthritis or tumor
  • The presence or spread of cancer Stomach or abdomen function
  • The presence and location of infection Thyroid function Brain or spinal cord function

Will I be exposed to radiation?

You will be exposed to a low dose of radiation during your exam. Our technologists are trained to use the minimum amount of radiation to produce the desired images.

How will I know the results?

Following your exam, a radiologist will analyze and interpret the images from your exam and prepare a full report. This report will be sent directly to your physician who will share the results with you. To request a copy of the report, you may contact your physician's office or the Medical Records Department at (432) 221-1600.

How do I schedule an appointment?

Your physician's office will call and schedule your exam. A physician referral is required.

What do I need to bring with me the day of the exam?

You will need to bring the order your physician gave you, a form of personal identification, and any insurance or Medicare information. If you are taking any medications, please print and complete the second page of the Pocket Medication Card and bring the list with you. Please do not bring the medications. This will help expedite your visit and reduce the possibility of losing any of your medications.