PET/SPECT & Nuclear Medicine

Trust the radiology technicians and doctors at Essentia Health to diagnose and treat a variety of health conditions with the use of safe, pain-free nuclear medicine procedures

What's Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine uses a small amount of a radioactive material and a gamma camera to show how well your organs are working. It can help your doctor diagnoses a condition in its earliest stages or assess the effectiveness of a treatment like chemotherapy. It can also be used for targeted treatment of certain conditions.

Types of Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scans

The two most common types of nuclear medicine scans are:

  • Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

When is Nuclear Medicine Used?

Your doctor may use a nuclear imaging scan to help diagnose the following conditions:

  • Broken bones or arthritis
  • Certain types of cancer and their stages
  • Conditions that affect the brain or spine, such as seizures or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Digestive system problems
  • Endocrine disorders, including thyroid gland disorders
  • Heart disease and other conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels
  • Lung problems
  • Organ transplant rejection

Your doctor may also use a nuclear medicine to treat:

  • Certain blood conditions
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Pain caused by bone tumors
  • Thyroid gland conditions such as an overactive thyroid gland or thyroid cancer

What to Expect

Your test may take between 20 minutes to several hours. And, in some cases, you may return for multiple tests over the course of a few days. Most people are able to return to their daily activities immediately following their scan or between sessions.

Before your scan, you will be given a small amount of a safe radioactive material called a radiotracer. You may take the radiotracer by mouth, breathe it in, or receive an injection.

You’ll be ready for your test when the radiotracer builds up in your body, which could be right away, several hours later, or a few days after you take it. After your scan, you will need to drink plenty of water to help flush the radiotracer out of your body.

During your scan, images will be taken using a special camera. The camera may stay in one place while you change positions or it may rotate around you.

Your Test Results

Trust the radiologists at Essentia to accurately analyze your results and report them to your doctor or referring physician promptly. Your doctor will talk to you about your results.