Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest imaging tests available; the amount of radiation received from a nuclear medicine scan is comparable to that of many X-ray and CT diagnostic procedures. Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest imaging tests available. A patient only receives an extremely small amount of a radiopharmaceutical, just enough to provide enough diagnostic information. In fact, the amount of radiation from a nuclear medicine procedure is comparable to or often lower than that of a diagnostic x-ray.
Are Nuclear Medicine Tests Safe? Yes, nuclear medicine procedures are very safe. We carefully select the radiotracer and radiation dose to ensure minimum radiation exposure and maximum accuracy. You are exposed to almost the same amount of radiation in a nuclear medicine test as in a diagnostic x-ray. The total radiation dose conferred to patients by most radiopharmaceuticals used in nuclear medicine diagnostic studies does not exceed that conferred during routine chest x-rays or CT examinations.
Nuclear medicine and x-ray tests are often complementary and provide different information that, together, makes the diagnosis safer. For most radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine, this half-life is measured in hours, so after about a day there is very little radioactivity left. Nuclear medicine is very sensitive and can often identify diseases and abnormalities earlier than other testing methods, allowing for earlier treatments and better prognoses. Like radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians are strongly committed to keeping patients' radiation exposure as low as possible, by providing the least amount of radiotracer needed to provide a useful diagnostic test.
Computed tomography and nuclear imaging have revolutionized diagnosis and treatment, almost eliminating the need for previously common exploratory surgeries and many other invasive and potentially risky procedures. A gamma camera is a machine that can detect and create images from the very small amounts of ionizing radiation emitted by patients undergoing a nuclear medicine study. Most of the increased exposure in the United States is due to computed tomography and nuclear imaging, which require larger doses of radiation than traditional x-rays. Technetium 99m MDP is used for nuclear bone scintigraphy, while Technetium 99m MAG3 is used for nuclear renal scintigraphy.
Contact your doctor's office and ask your office to contact nuclear medicine programmers to obtain appropriate documentation for the exam. Nuclear medicine uses a specially designed radiopharmaceutical (a radioisotope attached to a specific drug product) that is specifically delivered to the patient's area of concern. Nuclear medicine studies are very good at showing how an organ system works and often complement other research and imaging studies.