NUCLEAR CARDIOLOGY

Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses trace amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities within the body.

As a noninvasive and painless medical test, nuclear medicine imaging can help physicians to diagnose medical conditions. These imaging scans use radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracer.

The radiotracer is either injected into a vein, swallowed or inhaled as a gas and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of your body being examined, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays. This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera, a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner and/or probe. These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and tissues.

In cardiology, nuclear medicine imaging scans are commonly used to visualize heart blood flow and function (such as a myocardial perfusion scan).


PREPARING FOR A NUCLEAR MEDICINE PROCEDURE

Preparation for a nuclear medicine procedure depends on the type of procedure. For myocardial perfusion scan, patient must not drink or eat 3 hours prior to procedure and stop consuming coffee 2 days prior to procedure

Specific patient instruction will be sent to patient at time of scheduling.


BEFORE A NUCLEAR MEDICINE PROCEDURE

The patient should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for any nuclear medicine procedure and leave all jewelry and valuables at home.

Please bring the following items:

  • Prescription or referral from referring physician
  • Insurance cards and identity cards issued by government

The patient will be asked to wear a gown during the exam. Women should always inform their physician or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant or if they are breastfeeding their baby.

The patient should also inform the physician or technologist if they have any allergies and about recent illnesses or other medical conditions such as asthma or a chronic lung disease or if they have problems with their knees, hips or keeping their balance, which may limit their ability to perform the exercise needed for cardiac procedure.

If the patient takes beta-blocker medication (Inderal, metoprolol, etc.) he or she should specifically ask the referring physician about temporary discontinuation.


DURING A NUCLEAR MEDICINE PROCEDURE

WHERE IS THE PROCEDURE PERFORMED?

Our Nuclear Medicine procedures are conducted at Synergy Imaging Center which is located directly above our main SCHC Medical Offices at 506 W. Valley Blvd in San Gabriel.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN DURING THE PROCEDURE?

The Nuclear Medicine technologist first will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm. Radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracer will be injected through IV. The patient will be asked to lie down on the exam table for acquiring images of target organ or body part.

For myocardial perfusion scan, it will begin with a stress test, which requires the patient to exercise either by walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle for a few minutes. While the patient exercises, the electrical activity of their heart will be monitored by electrocardiography (ECG) and patient's blood pressure will be frequently measured. When blood flow to the heart has reached its peak, patient will be given the radiotracer through the IV. About a minute later, you will stop exercising and you will be positioned on a moveable examination table.

If the patient is unable to use a treadmill or bicycle, the patient will not exercise but will be given a drug that will increase blood flow to the heart.

Approximately one half-hour later, the imaging will begin. Once the technologist has positioned the gamma camera, it will move slowly in an arc over patient's chest.

This same heart scan will be performed at another time, when the patient has not been exercising (called a resting scan). Images of the patient's heart obtained after exercise will be compared with images of the resting heart.

Actual scanning time for each heart scan varies from 16-30 minutes, depending on the type of scanner used. Total time in the nuclear medicine department will be approximately two to four hours.


AFTER A NUCLEAR MEDICINE PROCEDURE

After a nuclear medicine procedure, a patient can resume normal activity.

All the nuclear medicine studies will be reviewed by a Radiologist who specializes in interpretation of nuclear medicine images. The result will be sent to referring physician. To request a copy of nuclear medicine images on a CD or a copy of report, please contact our office. They will be provided upon request for a nominal fee.