Nuclear Medicine

What is nuclear medicine scan?

Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses radiopharmaceuticals (tracers) to provide information regarding the function of bodily structures. Nuclear medicine at PCH is used to diagnose diseases and disorders.

The information obtained from nuclear medicine procedures complements to that acquired from x-rays, ultrasound, CT and MR imaging.

Our nuclear medicine room

We have developed a nuclear medicine room with imaginative décor and distraction techniques to help make your child’s experience as pleasant and positive as possible.

How are the images taken?

In nuclear medicine, small amounts of a radioactive material are introduced into the body, usually by means of an injection, and the radiation is then detected by a special camera (gamma camera).

The radiation detected forms an image and gives very precise information regarding the area being looked at. The images obtained are analysed on a dedicated computer system and a report is prepared by a nuclear medicine doctor for your referring doctor. Parents are welcome and encouraged to stay with their child for the entire procedure.

Before your child’s scan, they will be given a tracer either by injection, orally or through a breathing device.

After the tracer has been administered, your child will be positioned under the gamma camera and images will be taken. Depending on which part of the body is being imaged, you might have to wait a few hours before the images can be taken.

The images from the scan are produced by the tracer continuously giving off invisible radiation, known as gamma rays. The images are stored digitally on a computer. The doctor who specialises in reading the images will be able to tell if the part of your child’s body being tested is functioning normally and will produce a report on the findings of their scan.

Most scans take at least an hour. The most important thing our patients need to remember when they are having a scan is that they must keep very still. We understand that most children will find it hard to stay still for such a long time. We have a range of options to distract them during their procedure and help them stay relaxed, including movies for them to watch. We also use immobilisation equipment to provide safe support and prevent movement that could compromise their scan.   

Who will assess my child’s nuclear medicine study?

The scan will be performed by nuclear medicine technologists and will be reported by a nuclear medicine physician. Our nuclear medicine staff are all specifically trained in the field of paediatric nuclear medicine.

Please feel free to contact us with any queries if your child is referred for a nuclear medicine study.

When do I get the results?

The results from the scan will be sent to the doctor who referred your child for the nuclear medicine study, and you will receive them at your next appointment with the referring doctor. Results are not normally given on the day of the scan.

What do I do before the test?

Some scans require special preparation. If any preparation is necessary for your child’s scan you will be given specific instructions when you book your appointment.

If you think your child will be unacceptably distressed by the nuclear medicine procedure, please discuss strategies to minimise distress with your referring doctor.

What happens after the test?

The nuclear medicine technologist will let you know when the scan is complete and  your child can leave.

After the test your child can eat and drink normally unless your child’s referring doctor has told you otherwise.

How should I prepare my child?


  • Bring along a special toy or dummy
  • Talk to your child during the test
  • If your child is very young, we may ask you to feed them just before their scan to settle them and encourage them to sleep. This may reduce the need to give your child an anaesthetic.

Toddlers and preschool aged children

  • Explain the test to your child just before their appointment as they may become anxious if they are told about it too far in advance.
  • On the day of the test, let your child know they will be having some pictures taken and tell them that you will stay with them during the test.
  • Bring their favourite toy or book and a snack for after their test.

School aged children

  • Explain to your child in simple language that they are going to hospital to have some pictures taken of their body and that you will stay with them during the test. If the test involves an injection, it is a good idea to explain this, in simple terms, to the child just prior to the appointment, so that they are not ‘surprised’ by this when the test commences.
  • If your child needs to fast before their procedure, bring along a snack for after the test.

Radiation risk

We are committed to ensuring that your child receives the smallest radiation dose required to obtain the desired result. Although the procedure will expose your child to a small amount of radiation, your doctor considers that the benefit to your child’s health outweighs the potential radiation risk.