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Nuclear Medicine 

Nuclear medicine is a specialized branch of radiology.  Its focus is on using small amounts of radioactive materials to diagnose, manage, or treat disease.  Nuclear medicine uses contrast agents and X-rays to depict how organs function and detect structural abnormalities.  It is frequently used to diagnose early stages of disease, such as certain types of cancer, which can lead to earlier effective treatment.
Common diagnostic scans include:
• Renal scans- Examines kidneys and related blood flow
• Thyroid scans- Assesses thyroid function
• Bone scans- Checks for bone disease, tumors, bone degeneration
• Gallium scans- Checks for infection, disease, tumors, abscesses
• Heart scans- Determines extent of damage after a heart attack, evaluates blood flow and heart function
• Brain scans- Evaluates brain tissue and blood flow
• Breast scans-Used with mammograms to identify cancer
Procedure and Preparation

The procedure and preparation for a nuclear medicine scan depends on the type of scan.  You will receive specific preparation instructions when you make your appointment.  Common preparation instructions include food or vitamin restrictions prior to the test.
The procedures consist of receiving a tracer, the radioactive substance, prior to when the images are taken.  The time it takes to complete the process varies by the type of scan.  Overall, nuclear medicine is safe and painless.
After the images are taken, they are interpreted by your radiologist.  The radiologist or your doctor will discuss your results with you.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit