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Nuclear medicine imaging

Nuclear Medicine

A nuclear medicine exam allows your doctors to gather medical information about your body that otherwise may not be available. The radiation exposure to your body from nuclear medicine is very small, in most cases less than or equal to an X-ray.


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What it is

Nuclear medicine uses tiny amounts of radiation to find and help your doctors treat disease. Nuclear medicine procedures include:

  • PET scans to diagnose cancer and assess cancer treatment
  • cardiac stress tests to see how well your heart is working
  • bone scans for infections, injuries or tumors
  • lung scans for blood clots or swelling.


Good to know

Nuclear medicine is a safe, painless and effective form of medical imaging that has been used worldwide for more than 60 years. This area of radiology uses small amounts of radioactive material (sometimes called a dose) to image your body and treat disease. Nuclear medicine is different than other types of radiology because it looks at how a body part is working, not just what it looks like.

The dose is given by mouth or small injection. From your body, the radioactivity gives off signals that are picked up by a special camera called a gamma camera. The camera creates a picture on a computer that is evaluated by a specially trained doctor, called a nuclear radiologist.

Types of scans you may receive are:

  • bone scan
  • hepatobiliary scan (liver, gallbladder and abdomen)
  • myocardial perfusion imaging (sometimes called a "cardiolite" stress test)
  • thyroid uptake and scan with iodine-131 treatment for hyperthyroid

Related links

Source: Allina Health Medical Imaging
Reviewed by: Allina Health Medical Imaging

First published: 8/12/2019
Last reviewed: 8/12/2019