Home > Invasive Tests > Undergoing Radionuclide Tests

Undergoing Radionuclide Tests

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 1 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Radionuclide Test Radioactivity Gamma

Radionuclide tests involve exposing the individual to a small amount of a chemical called radionuclide, otherwise known as an isotope. This chemical emits a small amount of radioactivity that can be seen on a variety of tests.There are different types of radionuclide chemicals, each one aimed at a different part of the anatomy as they favour different tissues and will concentrate on these areas.

Types of Radionuclide Tests

Radionuclide tests are indicated in the presence of coronary heart disease and can be termed in different ways. These titles can include a radioisotope scan, a myocardial perfusion scan, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and a single photon computed tomography (SPECT). Essentially they are all radionuclide tests and aim to measure the effectiveness of the heart by examining the blood flow to the heart, the strength and mechanism of the pump action and looking for the presence of heart disease.These types of scans are not as commonly used as an ECG, but can provide a more detailed look at the function and health of the heart.

What is Involved in the Scan

These scans are often attended at specialist units that specifically treat heart patients. Due to the nature and expense of the equipment, not all hospitals have the facility, so travel may be required.

The specialist will often introduce the chemical into the blood supply whilst exercise is taking place or just afterwards. This allows the heart muscle to be working harder, and as the gamma rays are more easily seen in harder working cells, it enables a clearer picture of the heart whilst under strain. The chemical is usually injected into the vein, though it can be inhaled or swallowed depending on the nature of the test.

Whilst the chemical is reaching its target area, the individual will normally be required to be still whilst a large device called a gamma camera is placed onto the chest area. This device picks up gamma rays given out by the chemical as it passes through the heart, allowing the doctor to gain a detailed image of the heart muscle as the messages are sent to and interpreted into visual images on a computer screen.

Risks and Side-Effects

Although this type of testing uses radioactivity, the doses and exposure are performed in a highly controlled area by trained professionals so they are considered to be low risk.Most radioactive waste in the body is excreted in the urine, and no long-term effects are to be expected.It is, however, essential to tell the doctor if you are pregnant as gamma rays can affect a developing foetus.

The only possible side-effects are due to a possible allergic reaction to the chemical, though this is very rare, or because of nervousness and anticipation worries by the patient whilst undergoing the test or awaiting the results.

Radionuclide testing is an important development in modern medicine and allows doctors to make more accurate diagnoses, and therefore the most appropriate treatment options can be selected. They generally carry little risk and have proved to be invaluable in the treatment of heart disease.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Chitti
    Re: Hole in the Heart: What Happens Next?
    Hi Doctor, My friend is having 35 years and he is having a hole in the heart, he consulted many doctors in USA and…
    23 May 2020
  • rafa
    Re: What is Heart Block?
    Hello. I have born first degree heart block. 10 years ago was temporarily changing to 2 degrees, but stay first degree. Am I at high risk…
    24 March 2020
  • Zusi
    Re: Hole in the Heart: What Happens Next?
    In Sept '16 I was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) and in May '17 I had a stroke - the only symptoms…
    3 March 2020
  • Mahendra Gaikwad
    Re: Hole in the Heart: What Happens Next?
    Hi Iam 53 years old and living very healthy life. I have blood pressure but it is in normal condition with proper…
    27 February 2020
  • Poppypie1
    Re: What is Heart Block?
    Hi there I had a pacemaker fitted last year for Mobitz II heart block. My pacemaker is set to fire if my rate drops below 60 b/pm. Am I…
    23 January 2020
  • Muss
    Re: Hole in the Heart: What Happens Next?
    Hey.... My friend had a hole in his heart since he was born but he discovered it after he turned 17.....now he is 19…
    13 December 2019
  • williniejacobs
    Re: Hole in the Heart
    I was diagnosed of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 2012 at the age of 63. I had been a heavy smoker, my symptoms started out…
    27 November 2019
  • Abbsx
    Re: Hole in the Heart: What Happens Next?
    i was born with a hole in my heart , when i run i get heart palpitation like symptoms, i have asthma so it might be to…
    15 November 2019
  • MAC
    Re: Hole in the Heart
    I attended pulmonary rehabilitation several years ago and learned the proper techniques for taking my medications, but the medications do not…
    6 November 2019
  • James
    Re: What is Heart Block?
    Hi I have a pacemaker following heart block. Doctors don't know what caused it and told me i should be just fine from now on (I'm only 57…
    28 October 2019