Nuclear Medicine/Pet (Positron Emission Tomography)

More Information call - 906-449-3180

What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear Medicine imaging is unique in that it demonstrates organ function and structure, in contrast to diagnostic radiology which is based upon anatomy. Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, to diagnose and treat disease.

Radiopharmaceuticals are substances that are attracted to specific organs, bones, or tissues. When radiopharmaceuticals are introduced into the body, they produce emissions called gamma rays. A special type of camera is used to transform these emissions into images.

As an integral part of patient care, Nuclear Medicine is used in the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of serious disease. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease - long before some medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests. This early detection allows a disease to be treated early in its course when there may be a more successful prognosis. 

Although Nuclear Medicine is commonly used for diagnostic purposes, it also provides valuable therapeutic applications such as treatment of hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, blood imbalances and pain relief from certain types of bone cancers.

Here at UP Health System - Marquette, the Nuclear Medicine staff is very caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable.  We strive to make your hospital visit as pleasant, safe and comfortable as possible.  We do both Diagnostic and Therapeutic Nuclear Medicine; click links below for more information.

Test and Procedures

Nuclear Medicine
PET/CT                               SPECT/CT                          SPECT

Many patients who suffer from claustrophobia tend to do quite well in the Nuclear Medicine department, since the cameras are open on the sides.  All of the cameras are touch sensitive, therefore, when touched, the camera will stop moving.  The cameras also use laser detection to find patients’ body contour, to ensure patient safety.
The PET/CT Scanner is used for Oncology PET/CT scans. The scanner is the same size as a regular CT scanner. 
For Oncology PET/CT scanning, the patient’s doctor may prescribe a light sedative, such as Xanax or Ativan for muscle relaxation; this aids in more accurate tracer uptake and also helps alleviate claustrophobia.
 Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, to diagnose and treat disease.

Frequently Asked Questions - I 131

I 131 Treatment of Hyperthyroidism, Graves Disease and Thyroid Cancer
Your doctor has advised you to receive Radioactive Iodine I 131 (radioiodine) treatment for your overactive thyroid or thyroid cancer. Radioiodine treatment is simple, safe, and very easy to take. You simply swallow it. The amount of radioiodine given for medical purposes is very small and short lasting. The practice of treating one’s thyroid with radioiodine has been used medically for over 50 years. 

Who is the best source of information concerning my condition and treatment?
Your doctor is the best source of information concerning your condition and treatment. This information is to help answer some of the most frequently asked questions or concerns regarding radioiodine treatment. You should use this as a guideline in discussing your particular situation with your doctor. 

What is radioiodine and how does it work?
Iodine is a natural substance your thyroid gland uses to make thyroid hormone One form of iodine, called Iodine I 131, is radioactive and can be used to treat various conditions of the thyroid gland. This radioiodine is collected by your thyroid gland decreasing its function which inhibits its ability to grow.

How long does it take to notice results after taking radioiodine?
By one month there should be noticeable improvement in your symptoms and by three months, the radioiodine therapy should have had it’s full effect on your thyroid. Occasionally the radioiodine therapy needs to be given again.

Is radioiodine treatment safe?
Treatment with radioiodine is a well-established nuclear medicine procedure that is considered by the medical community and the Food and Drug Administration as a safe and effective method for treating patients with hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer.

Are there any side effects from the radioactivity?
As with most medical therapies, there are side effects associated with radioiodine therapy. Most of the radioactivity from the radioiodine treatment with be received by your thyroid gland. However, some of the radioactivity will go to other parts of the body. The exposure from this radioactivity is minimal, but the following are common side effects from treatment:
Radioiodine collects and is secreted by the salivary glands, potentially causing discomfort and/or dry mouth. Sour candies such as lemon drops can help alleviate these symptoms.
Some people may experience nausea immediately after administration of the treatment. This is minimal with the capsule form that we use here, and usually passes quickly. 
Although care is taken to give a dose to cure your specific disease, occasionally your original symptoms may return, necessitating additional doses of radioiodine to help control your disease.
Occasionally you can become hypothyroid. This is the opposite of hyperthyroidism, meaning your thyroid gland is no longer producing adequate amounts of thyroid hormone.

How long does the radioactivity stay in my body?
The radioiodine that is not taken up by your thyroid gland is eliminated from your body usually in about two days. Radioiodine leaves your body primarily in your urine, but some may be eliminated in your saliva and sweat. The radioiodine that is taken up by your thyroid gland is responsible for your specific treatment. This amount decreases quickly over time which reduces the exposure to both you and to others around you. 

Are others at risk from the radioactivity? 
Because the dose of radioiodine for treating most thyroid disorders is relatively small, people around you are at low risk. In order to help minimize any unnecessary radiation exposure to others, it is important to follow these basic guidelines during the first few days after your treatment:
The greater the distance you are from others the less radiation they will receive.
Radiation exposure to others is directly proportional to the amount of time they remain within a close distance to you after treatment.
For approximately the next 3-4 days after your treatment, flush the toilet twice after each use. 
Wash your hands thoroughly and routinely.
Do not share personal items with others for one week.
Children and pregnant women should avoid close contact for long periods of time for 7 days after your treatment.
You should sleep in a separate bed for 3-5 days. During this period, you should avoid kissing and sexual contact of any kind.
Drink plenty of fluids and urinate frequently to help flush any extra radioiodine from your body.
If you think you are pregnant, please inform your doctor because the radioiodine should not be given to pregnant women. You may need to have a blood test prior to your treatment to confirm you are not pregnant.
Radioiodine is secreted in breast milk. Therefore, if you are breast feeding you will have to stop.

How long should I wait after treatment before attempting to get pregnant?
An unborn child’s thyroid gland can be harmed by the radioiodine, so you should not attempt to get pregnant or get someone pregnant for at least 1 year.

How soon can I travel by airplane or mass transportation?
In these days of heightened security around the country, airports, mass transportation and border crossings have had radiation detectors installed and may be able to detect the radioiodine. You should not travel for the first 3 – 5 days after your treatment, but after that these places may still be able to detect the radioiodine for several months after your treatment. If you plan to travel, just call the Nuclear Medicine Department and we can give you a letter explaining to security why they can detect the radioiodine. 
If you have any questions feel free to call the Nuclear Medicine Department, 7 am to 5 pm weekdays, 906-449-3155.

Nuclear Medicine Links