With the help of a small amount of radioactive material, a nuclear medicine test uses a special camera to create pictures of your organs and bones.
Each type of nuclear medicine exam is different. So, the preparation for your exam might not be the same as that for another individual. For example, you might need to stop eating or drinking before the test, or you might also need to stop taking your medicine for a certain period of time. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider how you need to prepare for your exam.
Tell your doctor if you:
You should wear comfortable clothing to your nuclear medicine exam. Also, you might be asked to remove your jewelry and other metallic objects before the exam begins.
You’ll need to arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointment so that you can check in and complete paperwork. If you’re having a bone scan, you should arrive 2½ hours before your appointment time.
Before the test begins, you’ll be given a small amount of radioactive material. It might be injected, or you might be asked to swallow or inhale it. Once this is done, the test will either begin immediately — or you might need to wait for a period of time.
When the test starts, you’ll be asked to lie down on a narrow imaging table. A large camera will be placed close to your body, and you’ll be asked to stay as still as possible while the camera takes pictures.
If multiple angles are needed, the table might be adjusted so that more pictures can be taken.
You’ll be scanned several times during one day or over the course of multiple days.
Most nuclear medicine scans take approximately 2 hours. You should plan for your entire visit — from check in to check out — to be at least 2½ hours. In some cases, it might take longer.
In most cases, you can return to your regular activities and diet immediately after your exam. However, for 24 hours after the exam, you’ll need to drink more water than usual to help flush the radioactive material out of your body.