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Nuclear Scans

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KEY POINTS

  • A nuclear scan is a procedure that uses a scanner and a chemical called a radioactive tracer injected into your child’s vein to show organs or other body tissues that may be abnormal.
  • Ask your healthcare provider how and when you will get your child’s test results.
  • Make sure you know what symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them.

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What is a nuclear scan?

A nuclear scan is a procedure that uses a scanner and a chemical called a radioactive tracer to show organs or other body tissues that may be abnormal. Abnormal tissues absorb more or less of the radioactive chemical than healthy tissues.

When is it used?

There are many kinds of nuclear scans, such as:

  • Bone scans, which help find problems with your child’s bones, such as tumors, infection, some types of arthritis, and bone fractures that might not show up on X-rays
  • PET scans, which can check for changes in the brain, heart muscles, blood flow, or to check for tumors
  • Thyroid scans, which can diagnose problems with the thyroid gland
  • MUGA scans, which show how well your child’s heart is pumping
  • HIDA scans, which show how well your child’s liver and gallbladder are working, and if there is a blockage
  • Lung scans, which show how well blood or air flows through the lungs

How do I prepare my child for this procedure?

  • Your child may or may not need to take his regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell the healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that your child takes. Some products may increase your child’s risk of side effects. Ask the healthcare provider if your child needs to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child has any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child has had kidney problems or an allergy to chemicals such as contrast dye. Contrast dye is used for some scans.
  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child is or may be pregnant.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you if your child should stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep your child from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions about your child not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers may have more breathing problems during the procedure.
  • Follow any instructions your child’s healthcare provider may give you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what the healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your child’s healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

The radioactive chemical can be given by mouth, injected into a vein (IV), or inhaled as a gas. The level of radiation is usually about the same as the amount you get during a chest X-ray. It may be more depending on the kind of scan. The radioactive chemical goes to the part of the body being scanned.

For the nuclear scan, your child will lie down on a table. A camera that shows the radioactive chemical takes several pictures while your child is resting.

Depending on the type of nuclear scan, it may take 2 hours or more for the radioactive chemical to be absorbed. The actual scan usually takes 30 to 60 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

Your child may need to drink a lot of water for a few hours or days after the test to flush out the radioactive chemical. Follow any instructions your healthcare provider gives you. After the test, your child can go home and return to normal activities.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Your child may have a reaction to the radioactive chemical.

Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2016-05-02
Last reviewed: 2016-01-12
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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