Nuclear medicine

What we do

Nuclear medicine tests and treatments are performed by specially trained technologists. Nuclear medicine enables doctors to view the structure and function of the body including blood flow and organ function in the kidney, thyroid, lungs, heart, bowel, etc.

Nuclear medicine tests use radioactive isotopes, cameras and computers to image the body in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional imaging, similar to CT or MRI exams. Some cameras are hybrid images performing both nuclear medicine and CT exams simultaneously. They are referred to as SPECT/CT cameras. Images are produced through the detection of energy emitted from the radioactive substances given to the patient.

Different radioactive isotopes are absorbed differently by various parts of the body allowing doctors to isolate specific organs and bodily functions. Nuclear medicine also performs therapies using radioisotopes for patients such as thyroid cancer, hyperthyroidism, and bone tumor pain, endocrine, and some lymphomas.

What patients can expect

Before the nuclear medicine procedure, the patient is given a radioactive substance. This can be by injection, inhalation, or taken orally. Depending on the procedure, imaging may begin immediately or up to several days later. The patient lies on a table and a camera captures images while the patient lies still.

When the CT scan is not used, the nuclear medicine camera does not produce radiation. It picks up signals from the radioactive isotope you received before the test. The procedure is painless and on average takes anywhere from 45 minutes up to several hours and could require more than one visit, possibly on multiple days. The nuclear medicine technologist or the doctor that ordered your test will explain this to you before your procedure.

How to prepare

Preparation will vary by procedure. Instructions for preparation specific to the examination will be included in your appointment letter. The doctor who ordered the examination may also provide information about the required preparation. Parking in gated lots is available.


Nuclear medicine tests are very sensitive and can detect some diseases at early stages. The procedure itself is pain-free and non-invasive. The benefit of an early and accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk of receiving the small amount of radioactive material required to do the test.


The patient is exposed to a small amount of radiation similar to that of a regular X-ray. Precautions are taken to minimize the amount of radiation necessary for the procedure.

There is a very small risk of an allergic reaction to the radioactive substances. If you have any concerns about the safety of the procedure, please talk to your doctor or one of the members of the nuclear medicine team.

Safety Precautions

If there is any possibility that you could be pregnant or if you are breastfeeding, please tell the technologist before the test.

Also, please inform the technologist if you have any allergies.

Locations that offer this service

Nuclear and Molecular Medicine facility (next to the Health Sciences Centre (HSC))
8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday

Please note:

  • Patients are notified by telephone and/or appointment letter for all services that require an appointment.
Share This Page:
Last updated: 2021-09-13