This leaflet provides information about your radioisotope scan. It explains what this is and how it is performed. It also answers some of the most common questions people ask about this test. If any of the information is not clear or if you have questions not answered by this leaflet, then please ring the Department of Nuclear Medicine on 02920 316237.
Your doctor has asked us to do a radioisotope ‘scan’. This is a test which uses a small amount of radioactivity to produce pictures of bones, organs and other parts of the body.
What is involved?
Usually a small quantity of radioactive liquid is injected into a vein in your arm. However, for thyroid tests the radioactivity may be given as a capsule or a small drink. For lung scans we may ask you to breathe in an aerosol, which does not make you feel ill.
You will have a wait whilst the radioactivity travels to the part of your body that is being scanned. We then take pictures using a Gamma Camera.
How long will I have to wait?
The waiting time depends on the test. It will vary between 5 minutes and 72 hours. This time will be clearly written on your appointment letter.
Do I have to wait in the hospital?
You will be free to leave the department but we may ask you to drink more than usual before the pictures are taken.
How are the pictures taken?
We will ask you to lie on a bed (or possibly sit in a chair) whilst the pictures are taken using a Gamma Camera. It usually takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours to take the pictures. There may be a short delay whilst the pictures are shown to a doctor to see if any further tests are needed during your visit. You are then free to leave the department.
Will I have to undress?
No, but you may need to remove metal items, such as belt buckles, money, keys or jewellery. It is easier to give you the injection if you wear a top with loose fitting sleeves.
Do I need to prepare for the test?
Your appointment letter will tell you if you need to do anything special before your test (for example, stop eating or drinking). You can usually eat and drink as normal between the injection and pictures.
Do I need to stop taking my medication?
For most tests there is no need to stop taking your medication. If there is, we will tell you in your appointment letter.
Will it hurt?
Only the needle pin-prick might hurt a little. You will not feel any after effects from the test. It will not make you sleepy and will not stop you driving your car.
Is the radioactivity dangerous?
No. The amount of radiation you receive for most Nuclear Medicine tests is at most double that which you get every year from natural background radiation.
Do I need to do anything after the test?
Usually you can eat and drink as normal and go where you wish. We may ask you to drink more than usual to help clear the radioactivity from your body. During the test we may give you some medication called a diuretic. This will make you want to pass water more often.
We may ask you to avoid long spells of close contact with children and pregnant women for the rest of the day or for several days. This will depend on the test and the amount of radioactivity you have had. This will stop them receiving any unnecessary radiation.
Who will give me the result of my test?
Your consultant, or someone who works in his/her team, will give you the results of the test. The Nuclear Medicine Department staff will not be able to give you the results of the test.
Is there anything I should tell you before the test?
Yes. Please tell us before you have your injection if you:
• are, or think you may be, pregnant
• are breast-feeding.
Velindre Cancer Centre
This leaflet was written by health professionals. The information contained in this leaflet is evidence based. It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.
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