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Nuclear Medicine

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What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a diagnostic procedure that uses compounds that give off radiation. These compounds are call radiopharmaceuticals and are used to see the function of organ systems within the body. The procedures are very sensitive so they help diagnose disease when it cannot be detected by other tests.

Most nuclear medicine studies require intravenous injection of radiopharmaceuticals. Please refer also to “Having an IV” Way to Grow Healthy Facts sheet.

How to prepare for the nuclear medicine exam

Because every nuclear medicine exam is different, each patient will prepare for the exam differently. The best thing to do is to ask your physician what special preparation you may need. It is very important that you follow these instructions so that the test can be as accurate as possible. Inadequate preparation may result in a false reading or the exam may need to be rescheduled. If you have any questions after speaking with your physician, please call the CHKD Radiology Department at 668-7250.

What you need to know prior to the exam

It is very important that your child remain still during the exam to produce good quality pictures. If you do not feel that it is possible that your child to remain still, they may need to be sedated. Please notify your doctor and the hospital when making your appointment if you feel that sedation may be necessary. Additional time will be necessary to perform the study. For most studies, your child may have to lie down on a special table for an undetermined period of time. The camera will most likely pass over them but will not hurt them.

How long will it take?

Most exams take 45 minutes to an hour. Sometimes it may be necessary to come to the department for a short time and then return later that day. If this is the case, the Technologist will explain this to you. Please feel free to ask the Nuclear Medicine Technologist any questions you may have.

How should I prepare my child for the scan?

Infants: You cannot explain the exam to your baby. You can help your baby feel more secure during the test by bringing a special blanket, toy or pacifier. Please bring along a bottle of juice or formula to feed your baby when the test is done.

Toddlers and preschool-age children: Young children remember things for only a short time, so the best time to talk about the test is right before you are ready to come to the hospital. Tell your child that you are going to the hospital to have some “pictures” taken that the doctor needs to help him/her get better. Try to use simple words. It is important to be honest with your child. Because children at this age are afraid of being separated from their parent, let him/her know that mom or dad will stay with him/her as much as possible. When you come to the hospital, bring a favorite book, toy or blanket. You may also bring along a snack for after the test.

School-age children: School-age children have good imaginations. If you don’t tell them the truth, they may imagine something much worse than the actual test. The day of the test, tell your child that he/she will be going to the hospital to have some pictures taken of the inside of his/her body. Tell him/her the pictures will help the doctor decide how to make him/her better. Use simple words, and be honest. Try to tell your child exactly what will happen. When you come to the hospital, bring along a favorite book, toy or game. If you wish, you may bring along a snack for after the test.

Who looks at the pictures?

The radiologist will view all of the pictures and then talk to your child’s doctor.

What happens after the test?

The technologist will give you the instructions you need and tell you when you may leave.

Who will give me the results?

The doctor who asked for the test will call you with the results within a few days. Please call your doctor’s office if you have not heard anything after a few days.

Please call your child’s doctor or the Radiology Department (668-7250) if you have any questions or concerns.

Your child’s exam was performed by: ______________________________________________


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 02/07

(757) 668-7000