Skip to main content

General information on nuclear medicine

What is a nuclear medicine scan?

Your doctor would like you to attend for a nuclear medicine scan. This website gives only general information so please see your appointment letter for important detail. A small injection of slightly radioactive dye is used to obtain pictures of the areas your doctor is interested in. You may have pictures taken immediately, or after a delay, depending on the type of scan you are having. For the scan you will be asked to lie on a bed. We will ask you to remove any metal objects such as jewellery and for some scans you may need to undress. After any required delay, most scans take about 30 minutes, but again this depends on the type of scan.

There is some specific information about a few of our more common scans on the website.  But if your scan is not listed there and you need more information than you have been given in your appointment letter, please contact the department.

Are there any side effects?

Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest diagnostic imaging tests available. The amount of radiation involved is comparable to that received during an X-ray. The typical radiation dose is one to two times the annual natural background radiation levels. The procedures are painless and do not require anaesthetic. Side effects from the injection are extremely rare and usually mild.

Do I need to prepare for the scan?

There are many different tests and scans performed and we cannot list all the details here. Please refer to your appointment letter, which will explain any specific preparation you need. You need to tell us if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

Will it hurt?

For most tests there is just the pinprick of a needle, which is similar to having a blood test. The injection will not make you sleepy and it does not prevent you from driving.

What happens to the results?

The results of the scan will be sent to the doctor who referred you for the scan.

If you need any more information, please contact the department on:

Last reviewed: 14 June 2023