Nuclear Medicine / PET Imaging

Nuclear medicine is a specialized type of radiology that uses radioactive substances to form 3-D pictures of the inside your body. It’s a safe and effective way to diagnose disease and see how well organs and systems are working in your body. 

Nuclear Medicine at Fletcher Allen

Because Fletcher Allen is a university hospital, we provide expertise in a full range of specialized radiology services, including nuclear medicine and PET scans. The technology we use in our radiology department is unmatched in the region. With an emphasis on safety, comfort and thoroughness, our goal is patient wellness. 

Some of the nuclear medicine procedures we perform include: 

PET Scans: PET (positron emission tomography) scans use a radioactive substance called a tracer to study how well organs and tissues are working. The tracer is injected through an IV, then absorbs into your body where it helps the PET scanner take 3-D pictures. 

Bone Scans: A bone scan uses a radioactive tracer that gives off radiation as it collects in your bones. After the tracer is injected, you may have to wait 2-3 hours before the scan can be done. We perform three types of bone scans: 3-phase, limited and whole body. 

Cardiac Scans: A cardiac scan uses a radioactive tracer that gives off energy in your heart, where it helps the scanner create 3-D pictures of the heart. These scans are typically done before and after an exercise stress test on a treadmill or stationary bike. The test lasts about 3.5 hours, including the stress tests and scanning. 

HIDA Scans: HIDA scans, or hepatobiliary scans, involve radioactive tracers that travel from your liver and into your gallbladder and small intestine. After the tracer is injected into your body, a scanner tracks it as it moves through your digestive system. HIDA scans help diagnose liver or gall bladder disease. The test lasts about 1.5 hours. 

Is Nuclear Medicine Safe?

Nuclear medicine is safe. It uses very small amounts of radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or tracers. They emit low-level radioactive rays that do not harm the human body. 

  • About 10 to 12 million nuclear medicine imaging and therapy procedures are performed in the United States every year. 
  • The radiation exposure patients receive is comparable, if not less, than that received during a general X-ray procedure
  • Side effects are rare to non-existent.

Find a Fletcher Allen radiologist.