Vanderbilt Radiology Services / Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine uses a special camera to create pictures of your organs and bones. This test uses a small amount of radioactive material.

Example of nuclear medicine procedure

Preparing for a Nuclear Medicine Test

Each type of nuclear medicine exam is different. You may need to stop eating or drinking before the test, or you may also need to stop taking your medicine. Ask your healthcare provider how you need to prepare for your exam.

You should wear comfortable clothing. You may be asked to remove your jewelry and other metallic objects prior to your exam.

Tell your doctor if you:

  • Are or might be pregnant or if you are breastfeeding
  • Have any allergies
  • Have any fractures or artificial joints
  • Have had a nuclear medicine test before
  • Have had a recent test that used contrast (dye)

Arriving for Your Appointment

You will need to arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointment time to check in and complete paperwork. If you are having a bone scan, you should arrive 2½ hours before your appointment time.

What Happens During the Nuclear Medicine Test?

You will be given the radioactive material prior to the test. It may be injected, swallowed or inhaled. The test may be done right after the material is given, or you may need to wait for a period of time.

You will be asked to lie on a narrow imaging table. A large camera will be placed close to your body. You will be asked to lie as still as you can while the camera takes pictures.

The table may be adjusted to take more pictures. You may be scanned multiple times during one day or multiple days. Most nuclear medicine scans take 2 hours. You should plan for your entire visit to be at least 2½ hours. In some cases, it may take longer.

What Happens After the Procedure?

You can usually return immediately to your normal activities and diet. You will want to drink more water than usual for 24 hours after the exam.