Nuclear Medicine 

Atlanta Medical Center's Nuclear Medicine Program offers patients of all ages nuclear medicine tests or "scans." These tests provide valuable information about how your organs and bones function or are structured that is important in diagnosing and treating medical problems. Nuclear Medicine Scans are extremely sensitive to changes in function, which may be identified very early in the course of disease, before the problem may be apparent with other types of tests; and are performed on both inpatients and outpatients.

How Nuclear Medicine Scans Work

When you undergo a Nuclear Medicine Scan, a chemical compound that has been labeled with a small amount of radioactive tracer is administered either by injection in a vein, breathing or swallowing. Depending on its composition, it concentrates in different body organs or bones, and allows your whole body to be surveyed for disease with a very low radiation exposure, less than most standard x-ray studies. The camera itself does not produce any additional radiation, but only records the emissions from the tracer compound administered earlier. Multiple images can be taken without producing any additional radiation exposure. Side effects or adverse reactions are extremely rare.

Once the tracer is administered, you may be asked to wait a period of time before imaging begins, varying from a few hours to a few days, depending on the type of test you are having. This waiting period is necessary because the tracer needs time to accumulate in the area of your body being studied. When all pictures have been completed, the Nuclear Medicine physician will review the images and discuss the results with your primary doctor, who will then use the results to help determine the cause of the medical problem you may have and what type of therapy may be needed.

The Process

A Nuclear Medicine Scan is ordered by your primary physician. Scans for inpatients are ordered by the physician and the patient is brought down to Nuclear Medicine for the Scan to be performed. Outpatients must report to Outpatient Registration on the Ground Floor. After registration, take the Tower Elevators to the First Floor, and report to Diagnostic Imaging Reception. Nuclear Medicine is on One North, near the Diagnostic Imaging Reception area. The Scan is performed as a Nuclear Medicine Consultation, and the order received from the primary physician will contain clinical information and the reason for performing the test.

Getting Ready for Testing

Most Nuclear Medicine Scans require no special preparation on the part of the patient. If anything is necessary, you will be told by your doctor ahead of time or at the time your appointment is made. In some cases, you will be told to fast overnight, to avoid certain foods or caffeine-containing beverages, or to hold certain medications until after the Scan. You may be asked to wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing and comfortable shoes if performing exercise for a Heart Scan. After the test, your daily activities will generally not be affected because of the Nuclear Medicine Scan.


Atlanta Medical Center's Nuclear Medicine Program has the following accreditations:


  • Nuclear Medicine Program Accreditation by the American College of Nuclear Physicians with Special Qualification as Partner in Excellence for ProstaScint Imaging
  • Certificate of Achievement as Center of Excellence for Antibody Imaging - OncoScint for Gynecological Malignancy; CEA-Scan for Colorectal Cancer
  • Accredited by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Radioactive Materials Program

The following research projects are underway:

  • I-131 Anti-B1 Antibody Therapy for Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Low-Grade or Transformed Low-Grade Non-Hodgkin's B-Cell Lymphoma
  • Y-90 CEA-Cide for Therapy of Refractory Cancer of the Colon, Rectum, Ovary, and Pancreas
  • SPECT Brain Imaging for Post-Traumatic/Post-Hemorrhage Head Injury: Effect of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
  • CEA-Scan in Colorectal Cancer
  • OncoScint Imaging in Staging of Ovarian Cancer and in Post-therapy Reevaluation to Assess for Recurrent or Occult Disease
  • ProstaScint Scanning in Prostate Cancer
  • Bone Mineral Density of Interpore vs. Autologous Bone Graft for Triple Arthrodesis
  • Georgia Institute for Lung Cancer Research - Metro Atlanta Lung Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Initiative

Frequently asked questions about nuclear medicine:

Q. What are some benefits of Nuclear Medicine Scans?
A. These procedures provide valuable information that can enable your physician to achieve an early diagnosis of your medical problem. These tests are noninvasive and painless except for the injection into a vein, and are considered to be among the safest diagnostic tests available.

Q. How safe are Nuclear Medicine Scans?
A. Adverse reactions or side effects to Nuclear Medicine Scans are extremely rare. The benefit of early and accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk of receiving the extremely small quantities of radioactive material administered for a Nuclear Medicine Scan. Most of the tracer compounds are quickly eliminated from the body - usually within hours or, at the most, in a day or two.

Q. Is there anything I should tell my doctor or the Nuclear Medicine team before I undergo one of these tests?
A. Yes. You should tell your physician if you are pregnant, if you may be pregnant, or if you
are breastfeeding your baby.

Q. Are Nuclear Medicine Scans performed on children?
A. Yes. It is not at all unusual to perform Nuclear Medicine Scans on children. The dosage of the tracer compound administered is adjusted according to the child's size, as is done with all pediatric medication. As is the case with adults, the benefits far exceed the concern about any possible side effects.

Q. Why do some patients need a number of different tests in addition to Nuclear Medicine Scans?
A. A diagnosis is often made by one Nuclear Medicine Scan. However, it may be necessary to compare the results or confirm the results of the Nuclear Medicine Scan with other diagnostic tests in order to reach a more accurate understanding of your medical problem.

For additional information, call Diagnostic Imaging Reception at 404-265-4312 or the Nuclear Medicine Program at 404-265-4818, (fax) 404-265-3501.