Nuclear medicine imaging is usually performed on an outpatient basis, but is often performed on hospitalized patients as well.
You will be positioned on an examination table. If necessary, a nurse or technologist will insert an ( intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm.
Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the dose of radiotracer is then injected intravenously, swallowed or inhaled as a gas.
It will take approximately 60 minutes for the radiotracer to travel through your body and to be absorbed by the organ or tissue being studied. You will be asked to rest quietly, avoiding movement and talking.
You may be asked to drink some contrast material that will localize in the intestines and help the radiologist interpreting the study.
You will then be moved into the PET/CT scanner and the imaging will begin. You will need to remain still during imaging. The CT exam will be done first, followed by the PET scan. On occasion, a second CT scan with intravenous contrast will follow the PET scan. For more information on how a CT scan is performed, see Computed Tomography at (www.RadiologyInfo.org/en/sitemap/modal-alias.cfm?modal=CT). The actual CT scanning takes less than two minutes. The PET scan takes 20-30 minutes.
Total scanning time is approximately 30 minutes.
Depending on which organ or tissue is being examined, additional tests involving other tracers or drugs may be used, which could lengthen the procedure time to three hours. For example, if you are being examined for heart disease, you may undergo a PET scan both before and after exercising or before and after receiving intravenous medication that increases blood flow to the heart.
When the examination is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist checks the images in case additional images are needed. Occasionally, more images are obtained for clarification or better visualization of certain areas or structures. The need for additional images does not necessarily mean there was a problem with the exam or that something abnormal was found, and should not be a cause of concern for you.
If you had an intravenous line inserted for the procedure, it will usually be removed unless you are scheduled for an additional procedure that same day that requires an intravenous line.