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Department of Radiology

at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine tests use a small amount of radioactive material and a special camera to show early signs of disease. The images show doctors information about tissue structure and function. Nuclear medicine can also be used to help treat disease.

Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital has two nuclear medicine cameras. They provide bone, lung, myocardial perfusion (stress test), thyroid, liver, lung, biliary, gastric emptying, gastrointestinal bleeding, renal, and infection imaging.

Types of Nuclear Medicine Exams and How to Prepare:

  • Nuclear Stress Test (MIBI) Exams
    Duration: 4 hours
    Preparation: No caffeine or decaf coffee or tea for 12 hours prior to test. Nothing to eat or drink (except water) 3 hours prior to your test.
  • Gastric Emptying
    Preparation: Nothing to eat for 4 hours before test.
  • HIDA Scan
    Preparation: Nothing to eat for 4 hours before test except for water.
  • Renal Scan
    Preparation: Drink sufficient amount of fluid on the day of test before arriving.
  • Thyroid Uptake
    Preparation: Show up 24 hours prior to your appointment for capsule administration.
  • Bone Scan
    Preparation: Arrive 3 hours before your appointment for injection.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nuclear Medicine

What should I expect from a nuclear medicine test?

Nuclear medicine exams can vary based on the type of test. Some tests can be done in an hour. Others may take 2 to 4 hours or occur over several days.

A licensed nuclear medicine technologist will greet you and bring you to a room where your test will be done. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown for your test. Most tests start with an injection of radioactive material. This is similar to having blood drawn. The injection should not make you feel any different. Next, you will lie on an imaging bed in the exam room while a special camera takes pictures of the body part(s) being studied. The camera does not produce radiation, but detects the radioactive material in the organs, bone or tissue. The images provide information about the area in question. It is important to lie still for the entire test and you will be made as comfortable as possible.

The nuclear medicine technologist will check all the images with a staff physician before you leave. The staff physician may ask for more images and may look at imaging studies you have had before.

Should I be concerned about radiation?

The benefit of a test is always compared to any risks. Nuclear medicine scans provide very valuable information to doctors to diagnose and treat disease. To do this, a very small amount of radioactive material is given. The amount of radiation in a typical nuclear imaging test is similar to that of a diagnostic X-ray.

Women who are or think they may be pregnant or are breastfeeding should always check with their doctor before a scan. If you are or think you may be pregnant or are breastfeeding, please let the nuclear medicine technologist know ahead of time to make sure proper precautions are taken.

Who performs my nuclear medicine exam? Who is reading my Nuclear Medicine exam?

A Nuclear Medicine technologist licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Radiation Control Program, who has passed a certification exam given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, will perform your exam.

Once finished, your exam will be read by a board-certified nuclear medicine physician. A radiologist is a doctor trained to diagnose conditions seen on medical imaging tests. The radiologist will send the report to your ordering provider.

When should I expect results?

Nuclear medicine tests are interpreted by a board-certified radiologist. Results for your exam are generally available for your provider to view on the same day of your exam. Results are available in Mass General Brigham’s Patient Gateway.

Appointments are available Monday through Friday from 7 am to 4 pm. Emergency on call is available on evenings, nights and weekends.

Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital

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