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A male nurse helps a patient get into the proper position for her MRI scan.

Nuclear Medicine

The mission of the Department of Nuclear Medicine is to provide high quality diagnostic, therapeutic, and consultative nuclear medicine services for patients and physicians at the Hospital. 

Nuclear Medicine is an imaging specialty that utilizes very small amounts of radioactive materials that travel to specific areas of the body. Once there, they can be photographed with highly sensitive camera/computer systems and the images obtained help specially trained physicians diagnose the cause of certain symptoms. Nuclear Medicine differs from other imaging tests in that it provides information that is more related to an organ or system’s function, rather than its structure or anatomy.   Other radioactive materials used in Nuclear Medicine are utilized to treat specific diseases and/or ease symptoms.  Depending on the procedure, the radioactive material may be injected into a vein, swallowed by mouth, or inhaled through a breathing mask.

Once you have been given the radioactive material (radiopharmaceutical), your test may be done right away or you may need to wait a number of hours or even days to allow the radiopharmaceutical to concentrate in the area of the body being studied. This is highly dependent on the type of test being performed as well as the condition being evaluated.

For most procedures you will be asked to lie on an imaging table and multiple time-elapse photographs will be taken. The camera used to take photographs will be positioned very close to your body in order to obtain the best pictures possible. Although rarely an issue, if you are prone to claustrophobia, please inform the technologist performing your study. He/she can then make variations in the procedure to improve your comfort and help you through the procedure. Throughout the procedure it will be necessary for you to remain motionless while your pictures are being taken. You may breathe normally and you may also speak during your test.

Your visit to Nuclear Medicine will be under the guidance of one of our board certified Nuclear Medicine physicians and performed by one of our staff of highly trained and licensed Nuclear Medicine technologist. Every effort will be made to make your visit as comfortable as possible and our staff will be happy to keep you and any family members fully informed on how your test is progressing. Upon completion, your test results will be communicated to your referring physician that same day. Your doctor will then be able to discuss the results of the Nuclear Medicine exam during a follow-up visit.

We understand that you may have concerns or questions about your visit. Be assured that your radiation exposure will be kept to the lowest levels possible while still providing accurate results. The radioactive materials utilized are approved by the FDA and are considered safe and effective when used by highly trained Nuclear Medicine professionals. Although very rare, adverse reactions to these agents can occur and are generally of a mild and temporary nature requiring little if any medical attention. Additionally you should inform the nuclear medicine technologist, nurse or physician if you are pregnant or may be pregnant or if you are breast-feeding a child as these can require the procedure to be altered or postponed. Also, be sure to bring a list of all your current medications as some may interfere with your test.

The staff at The Department of Nuclear Medicine at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is committed to ensure your procedure is completed in a timely and professional manner and you are encouraged to let us know if we have met your expectations.

Nuclear Medicine FAQ’s

How long does will my procedure take?
The length of time varies for different exams. Most tests are performed on a single day, but a few tests can take up to several days. Because the radioactive agent takes time to be absorbed by the body it is not unusual for most test to take 2-3 hours.

Can I eat before my test?
For most nuclear medicine studies patients can eat prior to the exam. Certain tests, such as cardiac, gallbladder and gastro-intestinal studies, require fasting. If you have questions, please asked your physician.

Will I be able to drive after my test?
Yes, none of the nuclear medicine tests requires sedation.

What should I wear?
You should wear any clothing that allows you to lie down comfortably. We may ask you to change into a hospital gown. Also, if you are scheduled for a cardiac stress test, please bring shoes and clothing suitable for exercise. It is also advised that you do not wear any jewelry to your examine as these may need to be removed.

Will I experience any pain during the test?
Most procedures require a needle stick and the associated discomfort as with any injection. Additionally, lying still for a length time on the imaging bed can be uncomfortable, particularly if you have arthritis or other conditions of muscular / skeletal pain. Please tell the attending technologist if you are having problems. There are steps that may be taken to make you more comfortable.

Will I ”glow” at night?
A very common question and the answer is No! The injected radioactive material is invisible to the eye. It can only be imaged on highly sensitive camera systems built specifically for this purpose.

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U.S. News & World Report

U.S News & World Report has recognized Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center as one of the best hospitals for several specialties.