Nuclear Medicine


What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose a variety of diseases. Diseases diagnosed with nuclear medicine include many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities.

What is mobile nuclear medicine?

Mobile nuclear medicine coach Kalispell Regional Medical Center's mobile nuclear medicine service is a self-contained coach that travels to other hospitals in our region to provide patients with nuclear medicine services in their own towns.

The mobile nuclear medicine coach provides general nuclear medicine exams such as bone scans, hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scans of the liver or gallbladder, lymph node mapping for breast surgery and cardiac studies, all performed at the patient's hometown hospital.

The mobile coach is outfitted with the Symbia® E nuclear camera from Siemens Medical Solutions, which allows physicians to obtain highly detailed information and excellent image clarity.

In addition, the mobile service supports established outreach clinics, with specialists from Kalispell Regional Medical Center visiting outlying towns to see patients on a monthly basis. These specialists can provide interpretations of the various nuclear medicine scans without the patient ever leaving his or her town.

What does a nuclear medicine examination do?

A nuclear medicine examination produces images that can help physicians diagnose a specific disease or capture images of infections or tumors in specific organs. A patient is given a small amount of a radioactive pharmaceutical that collects in a specific organ or system inside the body. This radiopharmaceutical gives off energy in the form of gamma rays, which are detected by a camera and transferred as images onto a computer.

Nuclear medicine exams are commonly used to evaluate blood flow and function of the heart, respiratory function, blood flow to the lungs, kidney function and the presence of cancer.

What can I expect during a nuclear medicine examination?

First, a nuclear medicine technologist will ask you some important questions to determine if you should not receive the exam (if you're pregnant, for example). Next, you will receive a small injection into the vein to administer the radionuclide. The injection itself is painless, and there is a very low chance of side effects. You may then be asked to continue lying still for a few minutes.

Each imaging procedure time varies from 30 minutes up to three hours. When it is time for the exam, you will lie down on the padded examination table with the detector over the body region being evaluated. The nuclear camera, capable of imaging the areas of your body where the radiopharmaceutical has accumulated, will be moved close to you. The closer the camera is to your body, the better the images will be.

Simply relax and follow the technologist's instructions. Your only participation will be to remain as still as possible during the exam and breathe normally. If you move while the pictures are being taken, the scan may need to be repeated. The technologist will keep you informed about what is going on during the exam.

Once you are finished, your technologist will create images from the information acquired by the camera. Following your test, a complete written report will be sent to your doctor. Because your doctor knows you and your medical condition and history, he or she can discuss the results with you in a more meaningful way.

After the test, you can return to your normal daily routine. There are no known side effects of the small amount of radiopharmaceutical material, so you will feel perfectly normal. Likewise, the amount is so small that there is no risk to others around you.