Nuclear medicine scans use a special camera (gamma) to take pictures of tissues and organs in the body after a radioactive tracer (radionuclide or radioisotope) is put in a vein in the arm and is absorbed by the tissues and organs. The radioactive tracer shows the activity and function of the tissues or organs.
Each type of tissue that may be scanned (including bones, organs, glands, and blood vessels) uses a different radioactive compound as a tracer.
Anytime you're exposed to radiation, there's a small chance of damage to cells or tissue. That's the case even with the low-level radioactive tracer used for this test. But the chance of damage is very low compared with the benefits of the test.
Most of the tracer will leave your body through your urine or stool within a day. So be sure to flush the toilet right after you use it, and wash your hands well with soap and water. The amount of radiation in the tracer is very small. This means it isn't a risk for people to be around you after the test.
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Current as of: September 23, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Myo Min Han MD - Nuclear Medicine