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Nuclear Medicine


Hours of Service
8:00 am – 6:00 pm, Monday – Friday. 
Emergency on-call after hours and weekends.

All nuclear medicine exams are scheduled by the nuclear medicine staff at 207-777-8489.

Overview of Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive materials or radiopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat disease. These tests are safe, painless, and cost-effective. Nuclear medicine imaging is unique in that it documents organ function and structure, in contrast to diagnostic radiology, which is based upon anatomy.

Nuclear medicine imaging procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease – long before some structural changes are detectable by other diagnostic tests. The radiopharmaceuticals used in nuclear medicine emit gamma rays that can be detected externally by special types of cameras: gamma or PET cameras. These cameras work in conjunction with computers to form images of the organ or body part that has selectively absorbed the radioisotope.

Nuclear Imaging Procedures

These are seven of the most widely used tests:

Renal Scans Preparation: 

  • Drink lots of fluids the day before and the day of the appointment.

Thyroid Uptakes and Scans Preparation:

  • Ordering physician may ask that patients discontinue thyroid medication prior to the scan. NOTE: Please do not do this without your physician’s permission.
  • No Iodine contrast 30 days prior to the appointment.
  • No seafood 48 hours prior to appointment.

Lung Scans Preparation: 

  • There is no prep needed.

Cardiac Imaging 
There are two parts to this exam.

  • Resting Phase Preparation: There is no prep for this part of the exam
  • Stress Phase Preparation: Nothing to eat or drink after midnight and absolutely no caffeine.

Cardiolite Stress brochure   1.38 Mb

Gastric Emptying Preparation

  • Nothing to eat or drink 6 hours prior to appointment.

Gallbladder Imaging Preparation:

  • Nothing to eat or drink 4 hours prior to appointment.
  • No morphine or Demerol medications prior to appointment.

Bone Scans Preparation:

  • There is no prep needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q- What is Nuclear Medicine? 
A- Nuclear medicine uses small amounts of radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals to create images of specific organs.

Nuclear Medicine procedures are performed to assess the function of nearly every 
organ.  Common procedures are thyroid studies, scans of the brain, bone, lung, 
as well as cardiac stress tests, liver and gall bladder studies.  These procedures 
can be used for diagnosis.  Some are used to treat disease such as hyperthyroidism 
and pain relief from certain types of bone cancer.

Q- How much radiation will a patient receive from a nuclear medicine study? 
A- As a rule, the amount of radiation received is comparable to that received during a diagnostic x-ray.

Q- Will it hurt? Are there any side effects? 
A- Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive materials or radiopharmaceuticals that are attracted to specific organs, bones, or tissues. A special camera is used to record images of the distribution and location of the radiopharmaceutical within the patient’s body. The camera is “open” and quiet for the patient's comfort.

Q- How long will it take? 
A- Depending on the test the doctor has ordered, the total scan time can range from 30 – 60 minutes. Some exams have more than one part to them and may require that a patient spend 2-4 hours in the Nuclear Medicine department. In addition, some exams are done over a two-day period.

Specific information regarding the exact length of the study will be provided at the time of scheduling.

More Information
Did you know . . . 
Nuclear Medicine (Excellent information for patients from the American College of Radiology.)

St. Mary's Health System • 93 Campus Avenue • Lewiston, ME 04240