Pediatric Nuclear Medicine (NM)
Nuclear Medicine uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and determine the severity of or treat a variety of diseases. These imaging studies are able to identify molecular activity within the body and diagnose conditions at their earliest stage as well as monitor your child’s response to treatment if necessary.
- Nuclear Medicine (NM) Imaging and Single-Photon Emission-Computed Tomography (SPECT) uses radiopharmaceuticals and specialized Gamma cameras that can detect the breakdown of those radiopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat various diseases. These images allow doctors to look for cancers, heart disease and other conditions, help doctors choose the best treatment and to show how well a treatment is working.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans analyze measurements such as blood flow, oxygen usage and sugar (glucose) metabolism to determine how well organs and tissues are functioning. Our PET scanner also combines the imaging capabilities of a CT which allows for more accurate diagnoses than the two scans performed separately.
At Children’s Health, our specialized Pediatric Nuclear Medicine facilities are designed specifically for children in order to get the highest quality images in the shortest amount of time. Our scanners and cameras are certified by the American College of Radiology for image quality and our technologists are experienced in working with children of all ages and a wide range of conditions. Our pediatric radiologists and technologists complete each imaging study using radiation doses that are specifically calculated for that individual child.
What to Expect
Prior to the test, your child will be given a medicine, called a radiopharmaceutical or tracer, either by an IV line directly into a vein; by breathing it in; by a catheter placed into the bladder; or ingestion. After receiving the medicine, your child may have pictures taken right away or may need to wait several hours or days to allow the radioactive molecules to travel throughout the body. The amount of wait time needed is based on the type of test ordered.
During the test, your child will lie down on an examination table and the medicine will send signals that are read by a special nuclear medicine camera. This cameral will either rotate around your child or stay in one position and your child will be asked to change positions in between images. A nuclear medicine scan can take from a few minutes to several hours to complete.
If your child requires anesthesia during their study, he or she will be cared for in our Radiology Anesthesia Unit by pediatric nurses and anesthesiologists before and after the imaging study. Following your child’s pre-procedural assessment by our team, when it is time for the exam, you will be asked to wait in the waiting room until the test is completed.
The anesthesiologists are present throughout the procedure to continuously monitor your child and ensure their comfort. Our Child Life Team works with children and parents to prepare them for upcoming procedures and help alleviate any anxiety. Our pediatric nurses begin caring for your child before you walk through the door and continue care after you take your child home, remaining accessible to answer post-procedure questions and concerns.
Will my child feel any pain with the nuclear medicine or molecular imaging?
Your child will feel no pain during the exam. If the radiopharmaceutical must be given by IV, your child will feel a little pinch when the IV is started.
Can I stay with my child during the procedure?
During the study, you will be asked to wait in the waiting room until the test is completed. We understand this can be stressful and we do all we can to make sure that you are separated from your child for the shortest amount of time possible.