Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear Medicine

Patient Information

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Imaging & Diagnostic Services
Monday - Friday,
7:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Breast Center
Monday - Friday,
7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Nuclear Medicine

Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s mission is to provide our patients with the best, most compassionate care from some of the nation´s foremost health care professionals. The Imaging Department is equipped with high-quality, state-of-the-art technology and is staffed by experienced technologists and radiologists in order to provide you with the best possible experience.

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, to examine organ function and structure. Nuclear medicine imaging is a combination of many different disciplines, including chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer technology and medicine. This branch of radiology is often used to help diagnose and treat abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease or condition.

Since x-rays pass through soft tissue, such as intestines, muscles, and blood vessels, radioactive tracers are used in nuclear imaging. Nuclear imaging examines organ function and structure, whereas diagnostic radiology is based on anatomy. Radioactive traces are eliminated from the body within a couple of days.

Why are these Tests Performed?

Nuclear scans are used to diagnose many medical conditions and diseases. Some of the more common tests include the following:

  • Renal scans - used to examine the kidneys and to detect any abnormalities, such as tumors or obstruction of the renal blood flow
  • Thyroid scans - used to evaluate thyroid function
  • Bone scans - used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints, to detect bone diseases and tumors and/or to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation
  • Gallium scans - used to diagnose active infectious and/or inflammatory diseases, tumors and abscesses
  • Heart scans - used to identify abnormal blood flow to the heart, to determine the extent of the damage of the heart muscle after a heart attack and/or to measure heart function
  • Brain scans - used to investigate problems within the brain and/or in the blood circulation to the brain.
  • Breast scans - often used with mammograms to locate cancerous tissue in the breast
  • Hepatobiliary scan – diagnosis of acute cholecystitis, biliary tract obstruction; evaluation of gallbladder function, postsurgical biliary tract and bile leaks
  • SPECT scans - often used to evaluate a 3-D view of any organ for further clarification of a particular condition or disease

On the Day of Your Nuclear Medicine Scan

Where do I go? Campus Map

At the time your appointment is scheduled, you will be instructed to go to the Sweetwater Pavilion. When you enter, go to the Information Desk and our staff will gladly direct you from there.

When Should I Arrive?

Arrival times vary based on the type of nuclear medicine test that will be performed. If you are not sure of your time of arrival, please call 281-274-7170 to clarify for your specific test.

How are Nuclear Medicine Scans Performed?

As stated above, nuclear medicine scans may be performed on many organs and tissues of the body. Each type of scan employs certain technology, radiopharmaceuticals and procedures.

A nuclear medicine scan consists of three phases: tracer (radiopharmaceutical) administration, taking images, and image interpretation. The amount of time between administration of the tracer and the taking of the images may range from a few moments to a few days, depending on the body tissue being examined and the tracer being used. The time required to obtain the images may also vary from minutes to hours.

Will it Hurt?

Most nuclear medicine scans involve an intravenous (IV) injection, but every effort will be made by the technologist to minimize any discomfort.

After Your Test:

A board certified radiologist will interpret your exam. Legally, the technologist cannot interpret or discuss what they are viewing while performing the exam. A report with the results will be sent to your physician within two to three business days. Please check with your physician’s office to discuss the results.