Nuclear Medicine (NM)


Nuclear Medicine studies involve administering low doses of radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals, that are attracted to specific organs, bones or tissues and which can be inhaled, injected or taken orally. Radiopharmaceuticals emit gamma rays that can be detected externally by special types of cameras that work in conjunction with computer systems to convert the gamma rays into images and information about the area of the body being examined. Images of the tissue or organ are typically acquired from different angles, allowing the computer system to generate cross-sectional views. 

In general, Nuclear Medicine studies provide a low dose of radiation and side effects and allergies to the materials are extremely rare. Woodstock General Hospital conducts bone scans, thyroid scans and lung scans using nuclear medicine.

Nuclear bone scans

 A bone scan is a test that measures the rate of formation of bone and creates a picture of the skeleton based upon this. Change in the bone is a very sensitive measure of many disease processes. Bone scans are frequently used to detect the spread of tumor to bones, especially from cancer of the prostate or the breast. These studies are also often used to look for fractures and sites of bone infection and can find abnormalities not seen with other tests.

Lung scans (VQ scans) 

 The ventilation perfusion lung scan (also known as a VQ scan) is a method for detecting blood clots in the lungs. Blood clots can form in the veins of the legs (or other parts of the body) and then travel to and lodge in the lungs causing such symptoms as shortness of breath and chest pain. The scan is performed with two sets of images of the lungs. In each portion of the study, a set of pictures are obtained with the patient lying face up on the camera table and the camera positioned around the lungs.  

Thyroid scans

A thyroid scan provides information about the size, shape, location, and function of the thyroid gland. Certain regions of the thyroid gland are sometimes more or less active than normally functioning tissue. Overactive regions may take up more radioactive isotope, releasing more energy that produces a darker spot when a picture is generated. Underactive regions may take up less radioactive isotope, releasing less energy to produce a lighter spot when a picture is generated. The level of activity that a thyroid nodule displays may provide clues as to whether it may or may not be thyroid cancer.

Your physician’s office will make the appointment for you through Central Booking at WGH and will give you a Nuclear Medicine requisition that documents the exam requested, clinical information and any preparations required for the exam. Also, bring a list of your current medications to your appointment. You must bring this requisition and your Health card to your appointment. The exam will not be performed if there is no requisition for the exam. The radiologist will interpret the exam and the results will be sent to your physician within 3-5 working days.