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Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging provides nuclear medicine exams on the Mass General main campus and at Mass General Imaging – Waltham. No matter which facility you come to, our staff places priority on making your journey through the imaging process comfortable, safe, and successful. All images are read by a radiologist with specialty expertise in the area of the body being studied.
Nuclear medicine overview:
Nuclear medicine in depth
What is a nuclear medicine scan?
Nuclear medicine is a subspecialty within the field of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive material called a radiopharmaceutical or radiotracer to diagnose disease and other abnormalities within the body.
Depending on the type of nuclear medicine scan you are undergoing, the radiotracer is injected into a vein, swallowed by mouth, or inhaled as a gas and eventually collects in the area of your body being scanned, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays. This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera and/or probe. These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and other internal body parts.
Physicians use nuclear imaging to visualize the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone or system of the body. Nuclear medicine scans are performed to:
Because the doses of radiotracer administered are small, diagnostic nuclear medicine procedures result in minimal radiation exposure. Thus, the radiation risk is very low compared with the potential benefits. Nuclear medicine has been used for more than five decades, and there are no known long-term adverse effects from such low-dose exposure. Allergic reactions to radiopharmaceuticals may occur but are extremely rare.
Women should always inform their physician or radiology technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant or if they are breastfeeding their baby.
What should I expect BEFORE my nuclear medicine scan?
You will receive specific instructions based on the type of scan you are undergoing. In general, the following guidelines apply to all scans.
What will I experience DURING my Nuclear Medicine scan?
What should I expect AFTER my Nuclear Medicine scan?
Learn about nuclear medicine exams at Mass General Imaging. See what nuclear medicine scanners and images look like, what to expect from the exam process, and the key role played by our specialty-trained radiologists.
Dr. James H. Thrall, Department of Radiology chairman emeritus, discusses The Webster Center for Advanced Research and Education in Radiation, a unique research effort dedicated to reducing radiation dose for every exam Mass General Imaging performs.
Each radiologist at Mass General Imaging is a specialist in a particular area of the body. Department of Radiology Chairman Emeritus James H. Thrall, MD, explains how patients benefit from the additional specialty training our physicians have completed.
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