Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide
Nuclear Medicine

South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI)

Nuclear Medicine

What is Nuclear Medicine?

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. 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.

Nuclear Medicine Gamma Camera

Nuclear Medicine Gamma Camera

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 very uncommon.

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.

Scanning Table

Scanning Table

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.

Some images take only a few minutes to obtain, and some can take 20 to 60 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. Other children can’t be allowed into the scan room. The WCH WCH page link iconcreche is available to care for your other children at no charge until 4:00pm, Monday to Friday.

What if I am Pregnant or Breast feeding?

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 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?

Generally there is no special preparation needed.

Some scans require fasting and you will be given instructions at the time of booking if this is required.

For children under three it may be necessary to give sedation (sleeping medicine) to keep them still enough for the scan. For certain studies 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 if it is required.

Patient Information sheets available to download

All information sheets below are in PDF format

PDF iconMag-3 Renal Scans

PDF iconDMSA Renal Scans

PDF iconBone Scans

PDF iconGFR Studies

PDF iconGastro-Oesophageal Reflux Scans

PDF iconSalivagram

PDF iconBiliary Scans

PDF iconDEXA Bone Densitometry (children)

PDF iconDEXA Bone Densitometry (adult)

SPECT / CT and other procedures are performed as requested.

How can I make an appointment?

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.

Hours of Operation

  • Monday – Friday:  8:30am –5:00pm
  • Weekends/Public Holidays:  Closed except for emergency studies

DEXA Bone Densitometry

DEXA Bone Densitometry

Contact details

WCH SAMI Nuclear Medicine Medical Staff

Dr Ian Kirkwood
Head Consultant

Dr Sunil Gupta

Victoria Sigalas
Chief Technologist


Level 2, Rogerson Building, Medical Imaging (Nuclear Medicine is part of SAMI)
Women's and Children's Hospital.

Mailing address

SAMI Nuclear Medicine
Women's and Children's Hospital
72 King William Road
North Adelaide
South Australia   5006


Bookings – Phone: (08) 8161 6055
Enquiries – Phone: (08) 8161 6020
Fax:  (08) 8161 6333

South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI) logo

last modified: 26 Aug 2019