Myth Busters: Nuclear Medicine
When most people ask what I do and I respond that I’m a nuclear medicine technologist, they usually answer, “What is that?” or “That sounds impressive/scary.” Nuclear Medicine is not scary! It is a just another type of imaging modality used in our radiology department here at Cincinnati Children’s. Some of our most common questions are answered here:
Do you give contrast?
No. In nuclear medicine your child is not given contrast. He or she is given a radiopharmaceutical (this is a big word that means a small amount of radioactive tracer/medicine) designed specifically to go the area of the body that we are imaging. This medicine has no side effects and does not make your child feel any different. There are no known allergies to our radiopharmaceuticals.
Does your medicine/tracer make you glow in the dark?
No, unfortunately your child will not get any super powers from having a test in nuclear medicine. Again, there are no side effects to what we administer!
Do your cameras give off radiation?
No, our cameras work in a way that is the opposite of an x-ray. While an x-ray machine emits radiation through the body to get its images, in nuclear medicine, our camera picks up the small amount of radiation that we give your child (usually it is given intravenously or through a vein). Some of our cameras are also attached to a CT scanner. If it is necessary to fuse a CT image to our nuclear medicine image, we may do that at the end of the nuclear scan. At that point when the CT is being done, all other people in the room besides your child would either step out or put on a lead vest.
Can I be in the room if I am pregnant?
Yes, for most of our scans. The amount of radiation that we use is so low that it is perfectly safe for pregnant women. Most of our technologists in nuclear medicine have been pregnant and worked throughout their entire pregnancy. There are only a couple scans where we would not want a pregnant woman to be in the scan room. These scans are PET scans and therapy patient scans (a therapy is when a large dose of radioactive medicine is given to treat a tumor or some other condition). If we are doing one of those scans, we always ask every woman in the room if there is a chance of pregnancy. Additionally, if we are adding on a CT to our scan, we will ask any pregnant woman to step out of the room.
Contributed by Chelsea Kist (Spec Tech-Nuc Med) and edited by Bessie Ganim (Spec Tech-Nuc Med).