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What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the medical use of radioactive materials (radionuclides). Bone Scans, Schillings Test, and C-14 Breath Tests are examples of procedures that are carried out in the Nuclear Medicine departments.

Where do I go for my procedure?

Your procedure will be carried out in Nuclear Medicine at the Civic Campus or General Campus of The Ottawa Hospital. Check the Locations page for specific directions about how to find us.

Where do I park?

Parking is available at all campuses. There are signs to show you where the parking lots are at each campus. Click here for details.

Are any special preparations necessary?

Generally, no special preparations are required, but for some studies it is necessary to go without breakfast or to withhold medications. If special preparation is required in your case, you will receive instructions. If in doubt, telephone us at the location (campus) where your procedure is scheduled.

You may save time by wearing loose, comfortable clothing such as a sweat suit. Please do not wear jewellery, hairpins or metal belt buckles. If your schedule requires that you arrive in more formal attire you may be asked to change into a hospital gown.

If you are or think that you might be pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding, please notify us at one of the numbers provided, as the procedure may have to be modified, postponed or cancelled.

Many Nuclear Medicine procedures are divided into different phases separated by an hour or more or involve a waiting period after the injection of a radioactive “tracer” before pictures (scans) can be obtained. You may want to bring something to read or otherwise pass the time.

What if I have to cancel or re-schedule my appointment?

If you are unable to keep your appointment please let us know as soon as possible by calling the location where you are supposed to go. Should you be admitted to hospital, please inform your doctor about your appointment.

Who will perform the procedure?

A specially trained Nuclear Medicine technologist will perform the procedure under the direction Nuclear Medicine physician.

What will happen to me?

For most procedures, you will receive a small quantity of a radioactive “tracer” by intravenous injection, by mouth or occasionally by breathing it in as an aerosol mist. It is unlikely that you will experience any sort of reaction or distress.

When the radioactive material has gone to the part of the body to be examined, pictures (scans) are obtained using a gamma camera. A gamma camera sees radioactivity in the same way that an ordinary camera sees light. The procedure is no different from having your photograph taken but the exposure time will be longer.

While having the pictures taken you will need to sit or lie still on a special table. The camera may come close to you but will not touch you or hurt you. You will hear the noise of machinery moving the camera and probably some electronic beeping sounds. It is like having an x-ray taken, but no radiation comes out of the camera.

A technologist will be in the room with you for the majority of the time in order to operate the gamma camera and to attend to your needs and answer your questions. He or she may leave the room briefly.

Before you leave the department the technologist will check the pictures to be sure the test has given the most useful results possible and it is complete.

Will I be OK to drive or go home on my own?

Because no reaction to the radioactive dye or to the test is expected, you will be able to drive home if you wish. A relative or friend may come with you if you wish, but please note that our waiting room space is limited.

Will there be any after-effects?

It is unlikely. Only a small dose of radiation is used. The dose is kept to the minimum necessary to obtain a useful result. The risk from this radiation is very small compared with other risks encountered and accepted in everyday life. In ordering the tests your physician has judged that the potential benefit of having the test outweighs any risk involved.

How and when will I know the results?

After examining your test results, a Nuclear Medicine physician will then send a written report to the doctor who asked for the test to be done. Your doctor will explain the results to you when you go to see her/him.

Normally, it takes no more than 14 days to get a report to your doctor. If there is any urgency the Nuclear Medicine physician may telephone and/or fax the test results to your doctor.