Radiology & Imaging
Nuclear medicine uses a small amount of radioactive material to diagnose a wide variety of diseases and disorders. The radiation dose received is usually less than a routine chest X-ray. Nuclear medicine imaging is offered in Decorah, Iowa.
Nuclear bone scan
A bone scan is a nuclear imaging procedure. During a nuclear bone scan, a small amount of radioactive dye, or tracer, is injected into a vein in your arm and taken up in varying amounts at different sites in the body. Areas of the body where cells and tissues are repairing themselves most actively take up the largest amounts of the tracer. Nuclear images highlight these areas, suggesting the presence of abnormalities associated with disease or injury.
Some images can be taken immediately after the injection. However, you will need to wait for two to four hours before the main images are taken to allow the tracer to circulate and be absorbed by your bones.
You'll be asked to lie still on a table while a device supporting a tracer-sensitive camera passes back and forth over your body. The procedure is painless. A scan of your entire skeleton usually takes less than 30 minutes. Scanning a limited area of your body takes less time.
Your health care provider may order a three-phase bone scan that includes a series of images taken at different times. A number of images are taken as the tracer is first injected, then shortly after the injection, and again two to four hours later.
To see some bones in the body better, your health care provider may order additional imaging called single-photon emission CT, also known as SPECT. This special type of imaging can analyze conditions that are especially deep in the bone or in places difficult to see.
For a SPECT scan, the camera rotates around your body, taking images as it rotates. The additional SPECT images take about 35 minutes. For this scan, you'll be asked to lie still on a table while a device supporting a tracer-sensitive camera passes back and forth over your body. The procedure is painless. A scan of your entire skeleton usually takes less than 30 minutes. Scanning a limited area of your body takes less time.
A bone scan generally has no side effects, and follow-up care is not needed. You can return to normal activities unless your health care provider tells you otherwise. The radioactivity in the tracers is mostly removed from the body after one day and completely eliminated by two days. Drinking plenty of water will flush the dye out of your system.
After the nuclear bone scan
A radiologist will look for evidence of abnormal bone metabolism on the scans. These areas appear as darker "hot spots" and lighter "cold spots" where the tracers have or have not accumulated. Although a bone scan is sensitive to abnormalities in bone metabolism, it is less helpful in determining the exact cause of the abnormality. If you have a bone scan that shows hot spots, more testing may be needed to determine the cause.
Nuclear stress test
A nuclear stress test measures blood flow to your heart at rest and while your heart is working harder as a result of exertion or medication. A radioactive dye is injected into your bloodstream through the IV. First, images will be taken of your heart at rest. Then after you've exercised or been given medication to stimulate your heart, you'll receive more radioactive dye through the IV. You will lie on a table while a scanner similar to an X-ray machine creates images of your heart muscle. The two sets of images allow your health care provider to compare the blood flow through your heart while you're at rest and while your heart is pumping harder as a result of exercise or medication.