Coronavirus: nuclear medicine update
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, please read our advice and information before attending the service.
Please check your appointment letter carefully before coming for your appointment to ensure that you go to the correct hospital. Travelling between the hospitals takes approximately 35 minutes if walking at an average pace.
This page covers some of the questions you may have if you are coming in for a scan.
If you haven't recieved an appointment yet, please call 020 7188 4112 for diagnostic scans, 020 7188 4110 for the thyroid clinic, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I change/cancel my appointment?
For diagnostic scans, please call 020 7188 4112 and ask to speak to a member of the booking team.
For the thyroid clinic, please call the clinic coordinator on 020 7188 4110.
What should I bring to my appointment?
Please bring your appointment letter with you. It is important that any instructions are followed and this may include:
- dietary instructions – you may need to stop eating/drinking for a certain amount of time before the scan or abstain from caffeine
- you may need to stop taking certain medication (it is recommended that you bring a full list of your current medications with you)
- if you do not follow any instructions, it is likely that we will not be able to proceed with the scan.
If there are no special instructions with your appointment, you can assume that you can eat and drink as normal and take your usual medications. For some scans, a technologist or a nurse will call you a few days before to double check your preparation and medication.
If you are, or think you may be, pregnant you must tell us at the earliest opportunity, ideally before confirming your appointment. For all nuclear medicine studies we will check your pregnancy status with you before proceeding.
Please tell us before you come for your appointment if you are breastfeeding, as radioactive tracers can be passed into breast milk. We will advise you whether you need to stop breastfeeding or if you need to store any breast milk for use for feeds on the day of the examination.
You do not usually need to undress for your scan but you may need to remove items such as belt buckles, jewellery and other items of clothing with metal. It is recommended that you wear comfortable, loose clothing.
You are welcome to bring a friend or relative with you. However, as we are a large, busy department, please limit this to one other person. It is not recommended that you bring children with you. Due to space restrictions, you will not be allowed to take your friend or relative into the scanning area with you.
Benefits and risks of a nuclear medicine scan
The pictures produced will help your doctor to understand your condition by showing how various parts of your body are working.
The amount of radiation you receive is very small and is not dangerous. It is a similar amount to an x-ray examination. The nuclear medicine consultants are responsible for making sure that the radiation dose is kept as low as possible and that the benefits of having the scan outweigh any risk.
What can I expect at my appointment?
Many patients are referred for nuclear medicine scans as it provides valuable information about many conditions. It is a safe procedure and there are very few side effects from the procedures that we carry out. The amount of radiation used in nuclear medicine is similar but usually inferior to when you have a CT scan. We always ensure that we keep any exposure to radiation as low as reasonably achievable and that the benefits of having the scan outweigh any risks.
There are many scans that we do and full information will be included with your appointment. On arrival to the department, it is likely that you will be asked your height, weight and also any some questions regarding your reasons for the scan and current symptoms. Your personal details will be checked throughout the day whenever you are seen by a new member of the team. You may or may not be given some medicine before we give an injection of radioactive tracer, usually in a vein in the arm. Sometimes we will take some pictures straight away and sometimes we may need to wait a few hours. On some occasions, you may need to return for more pictures in the following days.
How long do I have to wait?
The waiting time between having the tracer injected and your scan depends on the type of scan and varies from a few minutes to six hours. Your appointment letter will tell you how long you should expect to wait but please be aware that this is only an estimate and you may be required to wait longer. Whilst trying to keep appointments on time, delays do sometimes occur due to emergencies. We will, however, keep you informed should this happen during your visit.
See the at our hospitals section to see our shops and facilities at each hospital.
Will the test hurt?
No. The scan is completely painless. The injection will feel similarly to a routine blood test. You should not feel any ill-effects from this injection. It does not make you feel sick or sleepy, and does not interfere with your driving a car.
How long will the scan itself take?
It varies, but usually between 15 minutes and an hour although it may take longer. We may also need to take some pictures on different cameras. Your appointment letter will have more information about your particular test.
When we take the pictures, you will have to lie on a bed and we use a large camera very similar to a CT scanner. You will need to keep still for the duration of the scan.
You will always have a radiographer/technologist present during the scan.
After the scan
- You can go home after your scan.
- You can eat and drink as normal. You may be asked to drink more than usual for the rest of the day. This is to help wash the radiation out of your body.
- Please read your appointment letter carefully as it will detail whether you will need to avoid close prolonged contact with children for the rest of the day. For most tests this is not necessary.