Nuclear Medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses pharmaceuticals (medicines) attached to a small quantity of a radioisotope (a radioactive material) to diagnose and treat diseases. Radiopharmaceuticals are available to study many different organs and/or systems of the body on a cellular level. The radiopharmaceutical used depends on the condition to be diagnosed or treated.

Nuclear Medicine vs. Other Imaging Procedures

Nuclear Medicine is a safe and painless imaging technology that stresses functionality over structure. Other diagnostic imaging procedures - such as X-ray, CT scan, Ultrasound and MRI - use radiation from outside the body to reveal the appearance or structure of an area of the body. Nuclear Medicine detects signals from small amounts of radioactive material sent within the body to provide information about medical problems based on how parts of the body are functioning.

As a result, Nuclear Medicine procedures can determine medical information that may otherwise be unavailable, require surgery, or necessitate more expensive and invasive diagnostic tests. The procedures are often able to identify abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease, long before some medical problems are apparent through other diagnostic tests. This early detection allows the treatment of a disease to begin sooner.

One Nuclear Medicine procedure, called a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, is able to precisely localize many types of diseases in the body just by determining how the disease uses sugar. No other imaging method has the ability to use our body's own functions to determine disease status.

Exam Preparations for Patients Over The Age of 16

Liver and Hepatobiliary Studies
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke beginning 6 hours before the scheduled time of study.
Gastric Emptying Scan
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke after midnight prior to study.
Thyroid Scan
  • No thyroid medication 4-6 weeks prior to study. Please consult with your physician before stopping medication.
  • Patients must wait 6 weeks after having an IVP contrast study before having a thyroid scan.
MUGA Scan and Bone Scan
  • No special preparation needed.
Nuclear Stress, Persantine and Exercise Cardiolite Test
  • A light breakfast in the morning, No caffeine or decaffeinated products after midnight.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

During a Nuclear Medicine Scan

Each type of Nuclear Medicine scan utilizes specific technology, radiopharmaceuticals, and procedures. The radioactive materials used for scanning have no side effects or allergies associated with them. Most patients receive radiopharmaceuticals through an IV; some will take a pill. The length of time for a scan varies between studies. However, the Radiology Scheduling Department has specific information to answer your questions.

Tips for your exam

  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment.
  • Bring your prescription for the exam.
  • Bring pertinent studies to compare to the current study.


This service is provided at Chester County Hospital.

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