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Nuclear Medicine 

What is a nuclear medicine scan?

Nuclear Medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, or 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. Nuclear Medicine procedures are used to help diagnose and treat abnormalities in the many different types of medical conditions of a disease.

At Lahey Outpatient Center, Danvers we have the ability to perform Whole Body Scans to detect the spread or return of thyroid cancer cells.

Nuclear Medicine enables visualization of organ and tissue structures as well as function when a small amount of a radioactive tracer is absorbed by body tissue. Several different types of radionuclides are available including forms of the elements technetium, thallium, gallium, iodine, and xenon.  The type of radionuclide used depends on the type of study and body part being studied.

What are some common procedures? 

- Bone scans

- Heart scans

- Renal scans

- Thyroid scans

- HIDA scans

What can I expect during and after a nuclear medicine procedure?

Patients undergoing a nuclear medicine procedure are administered either intravenously or orally a small amount of the appropriate radionuclide for the organ or body system being studied.  After the radionuclide is administered, the procedure may take place immediately or up to several hours or days later.  It depends on how long it takes for a particular radionuclide to travel through the body and accumulate in the site being studied. 

Once the radionuclide has collected in the body tissue under study, a small amount of radiation will be given off.  The amount of radiation to the patient during a nuclear medicine procedure is small, similar to that resulting from standard X-rays. 

This radiation is detected by a gamma camera and digital signals are produced and stored by a computer. In planar imaging, the gamma camera remains stationary.  The images are two-dimensional (2D) of the body area or organ being studied. Single photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT, produces axial "slices" of the organ in question because the gamma camera rotates around the patient, similar to images captured in CT.

The Radiologist can access and diagnose various conditions in the body such as tumors, abscesses, infection, organ enlargement, organ function and blood circulation.

The areas where the radionuclide collects in greater amounts are called "hot spots".

During a nuclear medicine exam, you will be asked to lie down on a scanning table and remain very still while the images are being obtained.

Our Nuclear Medicine Technologists will talk to you in detail about what you can expect before, during and after nuclear medicine procedures and answer any questions you have.

Because patient care is our top priority, we employ equipment and quality control as well as radiopharmaceutical quality assurance to insure that we are producing the highest image quality for both interpretation and diagnosis. 


ACR-Nuclear Medicine

To schedule a Nuclear Medicine exam at one of our following locations, please call: 866-479-3208

Addison Gilbert Hospital

Beverly Hospital

Lahey Outpatient Center, Danvers

For more information on nuclear medicine procedures, please visit: