Complete nuclear medicine procedures

Nuclear medicine, which includes PET/CT scans, is a type of imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to evaluate molecular activity within the body. It can be used to help diagnose many types of diseases and disorders at an early stage, as well as to see how your body is responding to therapy. Read on for more details about different nuclear medicine scans available at EVDI.

PET/CT Scans

Positron Emission Tomography, also called PET, uses radioactive material to pinpoint molecular activity within the body. When combined with the anatomic information from a CT exam, PET/CT can show exactly where abnormal metabolic activity is occurring in the body.

Nuclear Medicine Scans

Nuclear medicine scans use small amounts of radioactive material to evaluate molecular activity within the body. Examples of nuclear medicine scans include:

  • Thyroid uptake and scans and parathyroid scans, which are used to evaluate the thyroid and parathyroid
  • Cardiac (muga) scans to evaluate the function of the right and left ventricles of the heart
  • Hepatobiliary scans (also called HIDA or DISIDA scans) to evaluate the gallbladder and the production and flow of bile from the liver to the small intestine
  • Gastric emptying studies, which examine the speed of food exiting the stomach and entering the small intestine
  • Liver/spleen scans
  • Renograms, which are used to assess the function of the kidneys
  • Bone scans

Nuclear medicine can also be used for therapy, as in I-131 therapy procedures that use small amounts of radioactive material to treat medical conditions affecting the thyroid gland.


Symptoms may not always tell the whole story. Providing an early and accurate diagnosis is key.

What is a SPECT imaging procedure with DaTscan?

If you have symptoms of a parkinsonian syndrome, your doctor may decide to take a SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) image of your brain and use it with other medical tests to help decide what may be causing the symptoms.

The SPECT imaging procedure uses DaTscan, a FDA-approved radioactive imaging drug that is injected into your bloodstream to help take pictures of dopamine neurons in your brain.

Why is having a DaTscan beneficial?

Parkinsonian syndromes occur when your brain is not getting enough of the dopamine it needs to perform certain functions. This affects the brains ability to control movement and other muscle functions. This exam can help decrease uncertainty about a diagnosis in adult patients who have symptoms such as shaking or stiffness.

Who should receive an imaging test using DaTscan?

If you are an adult with a movement difficulty your doctor may decide to do this imaging test to help decide if your movement difficulties are due to a parkinsonian syndrome or something else with similar symptoms, such as essential tremor.

  • No allergies to iodine or other medical conditions
  • Not pregnant, nursing or planning to become pregnant
  • No reduced kidney or liver function

What to expect during the test?

  • The entire process takes approximately 4 – 6 hours and is performed by a specially trained nurse or technologist.
  • An hour before you receive a DaTscan injection, you are given another medication that will block the radioactive iodine from going into your thyroid.
  • Before the test begins, DaTscan will be injected through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. Because it takes time for the DaTscan to be distributed throughout the brain, you will need to wait 3 to 6 hours after the injection for the imaging test to begin. You will be allowed to leave the imaging center during this waiting period but must return at a specific time to complete the exam.
  • For the imaging, you will lie on a table and a technologist will position you on a headrest.
  • A camera is then positioned above you and will be very close to your head but not touching you. The imaging portion will take approximately 30 minutes.

Is DaTscan covered by insurance and is a doctor’s referral needed?

DaTscan is covered by many insurance companies with preauthorization for the procedure. The exam must be ordered by your doctor because each dosage is specific to the patient. Due to the specific dosage requirements, there is a 48 hour cancellation policy for this exam.

Is DaTscan safe if you are currently taking other medications?

Some medications or supplements may interfere with this test. Be sure to tell your doctor what drugs or supplements you are taking, so your doctor can decide if you should stop taking any of them for a period of time before receiving DaTscan. Always talk to your doctor if you have any questions about SPECT imaging or the use of DaTscan.

What preparation is needed for a DaTscan?

  • On the day of the test, drink plenty of fluids and go to the bathroom frequently before your test and for 48 hours after your test.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing because you will have to lie still for a period of time.

Are there any side effects of this procedure?

The most common side effects may include headache, nausea or upset stomach, dry mouth and dizziness.