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Nuclear Medicine

More Information About Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine refers to the combination of computers, detectors and safe, radioactive substances used to create images that show how well organs in the body are working.

Where is Nuclear Medicine Scanning Available?
Nuclear Medicine, MultiCare, Tacoma, Puyallup, CovingtonMultiCare offers nuclear medicine imaging at Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, Allenmore Hospital, MultiCare Covington Clinic, MultiCare Auburn Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.

Why is it Used?

Your doctor may send you to get a nuclear medicine scan in order to diagnose and treat a number of different problems, such as:

  • Tumors
  • Stomach problems
  • Bone disorders
  • Blood flow problems to different parts of the body
  • Blood cell disorders
  • Organs—such as your thyroid, heart, gallbladder, or lungs—that aren’t working correctly
How Does it Work?
A tracer, or special radioactive material, is given orally or intravenously. The tracer circulates through your body and then images are taken. Depending upon the type of test you are having, these images may be taken immediately and/or several hours later.

Next, you will lie on a table and a large scanning camera will be positioned over the part of your body that is being tested. The camera will scan for radiation released by the tracer and produce pictures as the tracer passes through your body.
How Does it Feel?
Nuclear medicine has no side effects. You’ll be required to lie still for a long period of time, which may be uncomfortable for some.
How to Prepare
When you schedule a nuclear medicine exam, please follow preparation instructions closely to ensure your test can take place as scheduled. If you are scheduled for a lymphogram (sentinel node mapping), read these additional instructions for general lymphoscintigraphy (PDF) or breast lymphoscintigraphy (PDF).

Nuclear medicine exams vary in length depending on the type of scan. Your medical imaging scheduler will help you estimate how long the exam will take.

You may be asked to limit food and fluids for up to four hours before the test.  We encourage you to drink extra water once your scan is completed.

You should not smoke or have any caffeine for four to six hours before the test. If your test is a cardiac study, you will need to abstain from caffeine for 24 hours.

Bring a book or magazine to read. Waiting for the tracer to circulate through your body may take several hours.

When you arrive for your exam, a nuclear medicine technologist will guide you through the entire process and answer any questions you have. You will be asked if:
  • You are or might be pregnant
  • You are breast-feeding. Please discuss with your technologist when you can start breast-feeding again.
  • Within the past four days, you have had an x-ray test using barium (such as a barium enema) or have taken medicine (such as Pepto-Bismol) that contains bismuth. Barium can interfere with test results of Hida scans and Gastric emptying studies.
  • You are taking thyroid medications and /or recently had a CT scans with Iodine contrast
  • Have recently had any test that uses a radioactive tracer, such as a bone scan or thyroid scan
  • You are taking any nonprescription or prescription medications, especially blood pressure or heart medications

You will need to remove any jewelry that might interfere with the scan. Wear comfortable clothing that does not have metal buttons or zippers.

If you are unable to keep your scheduled appointment for any reason, please provide us with 24 to 48 hours notice:

  • For appointments at Allemore Hospital or at Allenmore Medical Building-C, please call 253-301-5011.
  • For appointments at Covington MultiCare Clinic,  please call 253-372-7228.
  • For appointments at Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, please call 253-403-1642.
  • For appointments at Good Samaritan Hospital, please call 253-792-6220.
After the Scan
Drink lots of water and urinate frequently after your scan to make sure that the tracer flushes completely out of your body. It takes a day or two for the tracer to be completely flushed, although most of the tracer will be gone from your body within a day.
There is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation, including the low level of radiation released by the radioactive tracer used for this test. Some soreness or swelling may develop at the injection site, but this is rare. This can usually be treated by applying moist, warm compresses to your arm.

ACR Accredited Nuclear Med

MultiCare Medical Imaging is an ACR® Accredited Facility