Nuclear Medicine is a medical specialty that uses very small amounts of radioactive substances, (also called "tracers") to diagnose or treat disease. It is one way of acquiring images of the body, like x-rays and ultrasound.
On this page:
Nuclear Medicine at the WCH is part of SA Medical Imaging.
How to access this service
A referral letter, or request form, is required from a doctor prior to booking any scan.
SAMI Medical Imaging request forms are available by contacting reception on (08) 8161 6639.
An appointment is needed for all studies.
Appointments may be made by telephoning Central Bookings on (08) 8161 6055.
- Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm
- Weekends/Public Holidays: closed except for emergency studies
Level 2, Rogerson Building, Medical Imaging
Nuclear Medicine scans can provide information on the function (how the body organs are working), or structure (how the organs look), of different parts of the body. It is used on people of all ages.
The radioactive tracers are given in several different ways according to the needs of the scan. Usually the tracers are given by a small injection into a vein. Sometimes they are given by mouth, or placed directly into the bladder using a small catheter tube.
Treatment of some diseases is a small, but important, part of Nuclear Medicine.
Frequently Asked Questions
How safe is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear Medicine tests are extremely safe. The tracers commonly used are quickly flushed from the body naturally, for example, by going to the toilet. In addition, the tracers rapidly lose their radioactivity. Modern equipment and techniques are used at SAMI which mean the radiation levels in the tracers are very low. Side effects or reactions to the tracers are rare.
How is a Nuclear Medicine scan performed?
The tracer given to your child will concentrate in the particular body organ being scanned. A special camera, called a gamma camera, is used to make the images.
As the tracer travels in the body, it continuously gives off invisible gamma rays. The camera detects these gamma rays and forms pictures of particular organs while they are working in your child's body.
Your child will need to lie very still on the scanning table for the pictures. He or she can watch a DVD to help pass the time. A small selection of toys, books and DVD’s are available, however, please feel free to bring any favourite toys or DVD’s from home.
Imaging times vary from study to study, but generally take around 45 minutes of continuous scanning. Some scans require your child to return for more pictures either later on the same day, or the next day.
We like parents or caregivers to stay during the scan, but the number of people present should be kept to a minimum. Siblings (babies and children) cannot be allowed into the room during any part of the procedure. Please make alternate arrangements for your other children to be cared for during the day.
What if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
If you are staying with a child during a Nuclear Medicine scan, or having a scan yourself, you must tell the Nuclear Medicine staff if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
If you are having a Nuclear Medicine scan yourself and you are breastfeeding, please contact the SAMI Nuclear Medicine staff before attending for your appointment.
Does it hurt?
As many scans require an injection, we can use a local anaesthetic cream on the injection site to help take the "ouch" out of the injection. This can help your child feel less discomfort, and less distress if your child is nervous about injections.
The anaesthetic cream is applied 30–60 minutes before the scan starts. When your appointment is made, you will be given the anaesthetic cream time as well as the scan time. It is important that you arrive at the appointments on time to make sure the cream has the best chance of working properly.
Can my child eat and drink before the scan?
Prior to most scans children can eat and drink normally. However, for some studies it may be necessary to give children under three sedation (sleeping medicine) to keep them still enough for the scan. In this case you will be given instructions for your child to fast (not eat or drink) for a certain time before the study. This will enable us to give the sedation safely if it is required.
Patient information sheets
- Mag–3 Renal Scans
- DMSA Renal Scans
- Bone Scans
- GFR Studies
- Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Scans
- Biliary Scans
- DEXA Bone Densitometry (children)
- DEXA Bone Densitometry (adult)
SPECT / CT and other procedures are performed as requested.
(08) 8161 6055 (bookings)
(08) 8161 6020 (enquires)
(08) 8161 6333
SAMI Nuclear Medicine
Women's and Children's Hospital
72 King William Road
South Australia 5006
Dr Ian Kirkwood