Nuclear medicine (NM) is specialised radiological procedure that makes use of radioactive isotopes to help in imaging organ function and structure. The isotopes – which are introduced into the patient through injection, inhalation or swallowing – will then emit Gamma ray photons which are detected by a Gamma camera.These radioactive isotopes that are introduced into the body are non-toxic and are usually excreted from the body within 24 hours or by natural decay.
As with most radiological procedures, there may be preparations that will be required to be done by you. Below are some preparations needed to ensure a successful and smooth NM scan appointment.
For Meckel’s scan and gastrointestinal (GI) bleed studies onlyIf you had gone for a barium study 5 days before your NM appointment, do call our appointment centre and reschedule as there may still be remaining traces of the barium contrast media used in the previous study in your body that may affect the accuracy of the NM examination.
For thyroid and parathyroid studies onlyYou should only do your NM Thyroid or Parathyroid scan at least 1 month after any Computed Tomography (CT) scans with radiological contrast. Do inform any of our staff and reschedule your appointment.
Fasting (For gastro-intestinal motility studies only)You are required to fast for 4-6 hours before the scan.
Patient position Majority of the scans will be performed with you lying in the supine position. There are some that may require you to stand during the procedure or may need you to be in a combination of positions.
Do discuss with your requesting doctor should you have difficulty in any of the above positions before scheduling an appointment.
PregnancyDo inform your doctor or any of our staff before scheduling an appointment should you be/ are unsure if you are pregnant.
MedicationsFor most NM scans, regular prescribed medications can be continued as per normal. However, if you are coming for a thyroid/parathyroid NM scan, some medications are required to be stopped prior to scan. You will be given more information about this when your doctor is scheduling your appointment.
Emptying of bladder As NM examinations may take time to complete, do empty your bladder before the start of your scan.
Outfit You may be required to change into a hospital gown, so do wear comfortable attires that are easily removed. Avoid bringing or wearing excessive jewelleries on the day of your appointment. A locker will be provided for you to keep your personal belongings.
You are encouraged to adhere to the following activities upon completion of your NM examination:1. Avoid close contact with babies and pregnant women Do try to maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from babies, young children and pregnant women after your scan. This is to prevent exposing them to unnecessary radiation from the remaining radioactivity in your body that will be removed naturally.2. Breastfeeding Breastfeeding women should avoid breastfeeding for at least 24 hours after the scan. You may discard the expressed milk from both breasts during this period as it may be contaminated with traces of the radioactivity. In anticipation of this, you may wish to ensure sufficient storage of breast milk before the day of the NM appointment.
3. Clearing the traces of radioactivity
You will be encouraged to flush the toilet bowl twice to ensure proper cleansing of the sanitary equipment after visits to the washroom. You should also wash your hands thoroughly to avoid radioactive contamination on your hands from the excretory wastes.
Apart from the abovementioned, you may resume normal activities after the scan.
If I have a previous allergy to radiological contrast, can I still undergo an NM scan?
Yes, you may. Radioactive isotopes do not work the same way as other radiological contrast, and should be safe for you even if you have a known allergy to contrast media.