Pediatric Nuclear Medicine Tests

Also known as: nuclear medicine studies.

What are Nuclear Medicine Tests?

Nuclear medicine is a type of imaging that uses small, safe amounts of radioactive medicine to diagnose, treat and track the treatment of diseases. Nuclear medicine tests specifically show any changes that may be taking place inside the body.

There are several types of nuclear medicine scans. All of these scans use radioactive medicine, administered either by mouth or by injection, depending on the part of the body needed to photograph.

For example, if your child is receiving a scan of the stomach for a gastric reflux or gastric emptying study, the child will be instructed to take the radioisotope by mouth.

  • If your child is receiving a scan of the bones, thyroid, or kidneys, the child will be administered the isotope via injection with numbing medication.
  • The scans are not painful and may take up to a few minutes to a few hours to complete, depending on the type of test.
  • To get the best results, your child will be asked to hold still during the test. 
  • Children are able to complete the scans without sedation for most of the tests. If for any reason your child may need extra help holding still, your child can be rescheduled at a later time under sedation or general anesthesia.

All nuclear scans require an advance appointment. Instructions are given at that time for the individualized specific preparation for your child.

Pediatric Nuclear Medicine studies offered include:

  • Brain and CSF studies
  • Thyroid studies
  • Pulmonary studies
  • Cardiovascular studies
  • Gastrointestinal studies
  • Splenic scintigraphy
  • Genitourinary studies
  • Skeletal scintigraphy
  • Scintigraphy of infection
  • Tumor scintigraphy
  • Lymphoscintigraphy

The Latest Technology

The Department of Radiology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital has two gamma cameras dedicated to pediatric applications. One camera is a triple headed gamma camera which has specific neuroimaging and tumor imaging capabilities not utilized anywhere else in Miami for pediatric patients. This includes ictal SPECT imaging for delineation of epileptogenic foci with a dedicated neurological unit and video EEG monitoring.

Using oncologic agents such as I123 MIBG (which seeks out neuroendocrine tumors), Nicklaus Children's Hospital is the only free-standing, non-University hospital offering this nuclear scan and the only site south of Boston.

What to Expect the Day of the Exam

Step 1: Getting Ready

  • A member of the nuclear medicine team will prepare a radioactive pharmaceutical according to your child’s weight.
  • If given by mouth, the technologist will mix the isotope into food provided by our cafeteria or it can be mixed with food brought from home.
  • If given through injection, numbing medication may be used to make the child more comfortable.
  • Once the radiopharmaceutical has reached the intended area, the technologist will begin taking pictures.

Step 2: Taking Pictures

  • Your child will be asked to lie down on the exam bed to begin taking the pictures.
  • To make sure that your child is laying in the right position, the technologists may move the bed or camera around until it is in the correct position for the scan.
  • Remind your child that they are only getting their pictures taken and that it does not hurt.
  • You are strongly encouraged to stay next to your child during the scan to help him or her feel relaxed and help the child hold still. You can encourage playing with a favorite toy, singing songs, or playing games on a smart phone or tablet during the test.

Step 3: The Results

Results will usually be sent to your doctor within 48 hours.

This page was last updated on: March 18, 2021 01:16 PM

Children's Radiology

The Radiology facilities at Nicklaus Children’s are specifically designed for the comfort and diagnosis of infants, children and adolescents.

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