What is scintigraphy?
Scintigraphy is a medical scanning technique which allows doctors to examine organs. It involves injecting a small quantity of radioactive substance into the patient,called radiopharmaceutical or radiotracer. This will depend on the organ and the disease it is examining. Scintigraphy is only ever conducted in a specialist hospital. It allows several anomalies to be detected, including the search of a pulmonary embolism or metastasis cancer. It also allows information to be obtained about how certain organs are functioning such as the heart or the kidneys. We can distinguish between many types of scintigraphy depending on the organ which is being examined: bone scintigraphy, pulmonary scintigraphy, cardiac scintigraphy, thyroid scintigraphy, myocardiac scintigraphy etc.
How is a scintigraphy examination carried out?
The radiopharmaceutical is very often painlessly injected into a vein in the arm. In order for the product to reach the targeted organ, the doctor must wait for a period of time. The patient must then remain still when the image is being taken. This is done with what’s called a gamma-camera or a scintillation camera which moves around the patient. The rays that are emitted by the organ are transmitted onto a screen. Scintigraphy scans can often last for a few minutes up to an hour, depending on the individual case.
Risks of having a scintigraphy scan
Scintigraphy is a completely safe examination. In fact, the radioactive substance is injected only in a very small dose and carries no risk for the human body. Irradiation from it can be compared to a radiography examination. In order to eliminate the radioactivity as much as possible, drinking lots of fluids in the hours following the scintigraphy is advised.
Side effects of scintigraphy are quite often linked to allergic reactions which can lead to rashes on the skin or a feeling of general sickness. They are however very rare. It is important to note that the scan is contraindicated for pregnant women.
In the case of breast feeding, doctors recommend a woman waits 24 hours after the exam before expressing milk to her child. For this day, the milk must be expressed and then got rid of, in order to eliminate any trace of radioactivity.