Nuclear Medicine Scan

A nuclear medicine scan uses a special camera and a small amount of radioactive material to create pictures of your organs (such as your heart, lungs, liver, and gallbladder) and bones. Nuclear medicine scans may be used to both diagnose and treat disease. Some types of nuclear medicine scans commonly used include:

  • PET scan (positron emission tomography)

  • Specific body part scans (such as bone scans, biliary scans, thyroid scans, and cardiac scans)

  • SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography)

  • PET/CT scans (PET/computerized tomography)

  • MUGA (multi-gated acquisition) scan

The type of scan I'm having is called:__________________________________

Woman lying on back on scanner table. Healthcare provider is preparing scanner.
Relax and stay as still as you can to help ensure that the images are clear.

How do I get ready for a nuclear medicine scan?

The way you get ready for a nuclear medicine scan depends on the specific type of test you're having. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

  • Tell your provider about all the medicines you take. Ask if it’s OK to take them before your test. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines. It also includes vitamins, herbs, and other supplements.

  • Follow any directions you're given for not eating or drinking before the test. You may be advised to avoid caffeine or tobacco for a certain amount of time before the test.

  • You'll be given a tracer (radioactive material). It may be injected, swallowed, or inhaled. If injected, you will get an IV (intravenous) line. Your scan may then be done right away. Or you may need to wait a few hours or even days to allow the tracer to concentrate in the part of the body being studied. You may be scanned multiple times during 1 day. This depends on the type of nuclear scan you have.

  • Your scan may take a few hours. Bring something you can do if you need to wait.


Let the technologist know if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • Are breastfeeding

  • Have had a nuclear medicine scan before

  • Have had a recent barium study or an X-ray using contrast

  • Have any fractures or artificial joints

  • Have any allergies

What happens during a nuclear medicine scan?

  • You'll lie on a narrow imaging table.

  • A large camera is placed close to your body.

  • Remain as still as you can while the camera takes the pictures. This will ensure the best images.

  • The table or camera may be adjusted to take more pictures.

What happens after a nuclear medicine scan?

  • Drink plenty of water to help clear the tracer from your body.

  • Your healthcare provider will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up visit or over the phone.

Your next appointment is: _________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Neil Grossman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2021
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.