Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine uses small amounts of radioactive substances called tracers, which target and show the organ of interest, in order to diagnose disease and the severity and also treat disease.

Because nuclear medicine scans pinpoint molecular activity within the body, they offer the potential to identify early-stage disease, as well as immediate response to therapeutic interventions.

A gamma camera detects and measure the gamma rays emitted by the radioactive tracer that collects in the organ over time. A computer processes the resulting signals to produce images of organs and tissues quantifies gamma ray emission.

Nuclear medicine provides unique functional and physiological information to diagnose problems that often cannot be gained from other imaging examinations. You can use this information to implement the best health care for your patient.

Lake Imaging provides nuclear medicine at the following locations:

  • Geelong- St John of God Hospital
  • Ballarat- St John of God Hospital


Before a nuclear medicine scan

If the patient is pregnant or suspect that she might be pregnant, you should add this information to the request form and ask the patient to advise staff when the booking is made. If the patient is breastfeeding, this is important information for our staff to know. See our patient safety page for further information about pregnancy and radiation.


During a nuclear medicine scan

All Lake Imaging nuclear medicine technologists are accredited with the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nuclear Medicine (ANZSNM).

The radioactive tracer is injected into an arm vein, or might be given orally or inhaled for some studies. The patient will feel a slight pinprick when the tracer is injected and might experience a metallic taste for a short time.

The time required for imaging will depend on the study performed. Most examinations require between 20 minutes and 40 minutes of imaging, however some scans may require 90 minutes. These examinations may even require a 2 stage appointment to be performed on the same day.

The radiation dose will depend on the study performed. The technologist will use the lowest dose necessary to achieve high quality images. In most cases the radiation dose is less than that received from a CT scan and is similar to what is received from a few months of background radiation from the environment.

One benefit of nuclear medicine is that the radiation dose undergoes fast decay and rapid excretion through the digestive or urinary tract.

Nuclear medicine has been performed for more that 30 years and there are no known long-term adverse effects from these low-dose scans. The risk of allergic reaction to the radioactive tracer is very low.


After a nuclear medicine scan

The patient will be advised before he or she leaves the nuclear medicine department if there are any post procedure instructions to follow.

One of our radiologists will interpret the nuclear scan and provide the referring doctor with a comprehensive report about the findings. The patient will be asked to return to the referrer to discuss the nuclear medicine results.

If you are a registered a referrer you can access your patient’s nuclear medicine images and report through our secure online archival system, or view the films we provide. For more information about registering to access patient images visit the Request Access to online images section.

Any hardcopy images can be printed out for the patient to take back to their referrer. Reports are delivered within two (2) business days. If the patient needs to be reviewed on the day of the Nuclear Medicine scan, the patient can wait for the films and we will fax or electronic download the results.

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