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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear Medicine evaluates various medical problems by imaging physiologic processes (the function) of the body’s organ systems. A small amount of radioactive material is used to track and locate normal and disease processes. Specialized cameras are used to image the body and analyze the location, concentration and movement of the radioactive material. The procedures performed in Nuclear Medicine pertain to a wide range of medical specialties including cardiology, oncology, endocrinology and orthopedics, as well as thyroid therapy and localization techniques for various surgeries.

The St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston Nuclear Medicine departments are accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR), adhering to their standards for imaging and quality. Certified Nuclear Medicine Technologists (CNMT) perform all imaging procedures. Images are interpreted by Nuclear Medicine certified physicians and specialized Radiologists. All images are reviewed and stored electronically on a PACS (Picture Archive Communication System) which allows prompt reporting. The radioactive material used in all Nuclear Medicine procedures must be injected, ingested or inhaled by the patient. The material does not cause any side effects and the radiation dose is very minimal.

Nuclear Medicine procedures performed at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston include:

  • Bone Scan (Whole Body, Flow and SPECT)
  • Gastric Emptying Study
  • GI Bleed Localization
  • Hepatobiliary Scan (Gallbladder)
  • Indium Scan (for infection localization)
  • Liver/Spleen Scan
  • Meckel’s Diverticulum
  • Lung Scan - Ventilation and Perfusion
  • Resting MUGA
  • Myocardial Perfusion Imaging Exercise and Pharmacologic
  • Octreotide Tumor Scan
  • Parathyroid Scan
  • Renal Scan
  • Sentinel Node Injection - Breast (for surgical localization)
  • Thyroid Scan
  • Brain Death

Procedures performed at Ann Arbor Only:

  • Adrenal Scan
  • Cisternogram
  • C-14 H. Pylori Breath Test
  • Lymph Scan (for Melanoma)
  • Thyroid Therapy for Hyperthyroidism and Cancer
  • Thyroid Uptake & Scan

If you have questions about your procedure, please call 734-712-7130 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to be connected with a specialized staff member.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Nuclear Medicine procedures safe?
Yes, nuclear medicine procedures are safe. Patients receive a very small amount of radioactive material, just enough to get a clear image of the area being reviewed.

How should I prepare for the study?
When the procedure is scheduled, you will be provided the necessary preparatory information. Before the procedure is performed, it is important to let the technologist know if you have recently had a nuclear medicine procedure, are pregnant or nursing, have any allergies, or have had recent surgery.

Should medications be stopped prior to the procedure?
Some medications can interfere with nuclear medicine studies and need to be held until the procedure is completed. Please discuss with your physician medications that may need to be discontinued.

Why do nuclear medicine procedures take so long?
The length of time for each procedure varies greatly. The time needed for the tracer to reach the part of the body being studied could take a couple of hours or a couple of days. Also, the images needed could take minutes or hours. A time estimate for each procedure can be provided, but is ultimately dependent upon the tracer uptake and image quality.

Does the tracer cause any side effects?
Side effects are very rare, but if the patient feels anything out of the ordinary, please inform the technologist.

When can I resume normal activities after the procedure?
The vast majority of people having a nuclear medicine procedure resume normal activities following the procedure. If your medications have been stopped or reduced prior to your nuclear medicine procedure, discuss with your physician when to continue with the regular dose.

Will I need to avoid physical contact with others?
You do not need to avoid contact with people after a nuclear medicine procedure with the exception of Thyroid therapies. Most tracers remain in the body for a short time and then are removed through natural methods. Drinking more can help speed up the process.

Can children have nuclear medicine procedures?
Yes, children can have nuclear medicine procedures. The amount of tracer used is specifically adjusted for the child’s size. Sedation is sometimes required, depending upon the child and the procedure being performed.

Can pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding have nuclear medicine procedures?
Yes, the small amount of radioactive tracer is reduced for the patient scan. The ordering physician will determine the overall risk to the pregnant patient based on their clinical indication and presentation. The nuclear medicine technologist will give additional instructions to the patients who are breastfeeding.

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