Nuclear medicine is a medical specialisation that uses radioactive tracers (“radiotracers”) to carry out imaging tests, in particular, to obtain a diagnosis. Nuclear medicine physicians are therefore all specialist doctors. Our specialisation is not dangerous and it works in conjunction with radiology. We perform two types of imaging: scintigraphy and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans. Scintigraphy is an emission imaging, i.e. the radiation comes from the patient after injection of the radiotracer (also called “radiopharmaceutical”), to study the functioning of an organ or a physio-pathological function. In contrast, radiographic imaging used in radiology is transmission imaging (the beam is external and passes through the patient, in order to study the morphology and structure of an organ). In scintigraphy, the patient is injected with a radiotracer which is a combination of a carrier molecule and a radioactive marker. The carrier molecule allows the functioning of an organ to be selectively reflected, while the radioactive marker emits gamma radiation, which can be visualised using a gamma camera, in order to follow the position of the molecule in the body and thereby obtain the scintigraphy image. In PET, the radiotracer first emits beta+ radiation (positrons), which then creates gamma radiation, enabling precise images of the inner functioning of the human body to be obtained in the same way.
Scintigraphy and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans are the two imaging techniques used in nuclear medicine. It should be noted that in nuclear physics, there are several types of radioactive decay resulting in different types of radiation. The technology required to detect the radiation differs according to the type of decay, which is why there are two types of examination: scintigraphy for examinations requiring a gamma emitter, and PET for examinations requiring a beta+ emitter (positron). There are therefore two types of imaging in nuclear medicine: scintigraphy and PET.
A radiotracer (also called a “radioactive tracer” or “radiopharmaceutical”) is a molecule that emits radiation. This radiation is of different energy and wavelength from light and is therefore invisible to the naked eye. This is why very precise detection devices, called gamma cameras or PET cameras, are needed to detect and locate this radiation precisely, in order to study the functioning of an organ and diagnose the patient’s health problem.
No. Undergoing a nuclear medicine examination is not dangerous, either for you or for those around you. The radioactive doses and activities used for this type of examination are very low, and adapted to the medical diagnosis, with strict, systematic and rigorous control of the doses injected, and with regular monitoring. NO side effects have been clearly demonstrated after the injection of these radiotracers.
Regardless of the type of examination you are having, it is essential that you bring your prescription, your French health insurance card (“carte Vitale”) and the most recent examinations carried out in relation to your pathology. There may be other specific requirements depending on the type of examination. If this is the case, you will be informed when you make your appointment. You can also find the list of instructions on the examination pages (Our Examinations tab).
Except for PET-CT scans, and salivary gland or gastric emptying scintigraphy, it is not necessary to fast before your examination.
To make an appointment, you can go directly to our sites or contact our departments at the phone numbers indicated on the relevant pages.
As the examinations are all specific and require particular tracers, as well as different time frames, it is vital you contact our secretarial desks by telephone or directly on-site to make an appointment. Our medical secretaries will be able to point you in the right direction and explain to you the instructions for your upcoming appointment.
All our centres are open all year round, from 8 am to 6 pm from Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays, and also from 8 am to 6 pm on Saturdays exclusively for the Champigny department.
Depending on the type of examination and its degree of urgency, it is entirely possible to undergo a nuclear medicine examination while pregnant. Nevertheless, it is ESSENTIAL that you inform us of your pregnancy or your plans to become pregnant, in order to optimise the examination and reduce the dose of radioactivity induced by the examination as much as possible. The benefit/risk of the examination will be assessed jointly by the nuclear medicine physician and your prescribing doctor, based on the indication.
It is entirely possible to undergo a nuclear medicine examination if you are breastfeeding. However, it is ESSENTIAL that you inform us that you are breastfeeding so that we can advise you on what to do after the examination. Radioactive tracers can pass into breast milk, which is why it is strongly recommended that you stop breastfeeding for a certain period of time. The length of this pause in breastfeeding depends on the type of examination performed. Our medical secretaries will provide you with all the information you need if this applies to you.
It is entirely possible to undergo this examination if you are diabetic. The products used for the different types of nuclear medicine examinations will not affect your blood sugar levels. For a scintigraphy examination, you can take your usual treatment before and after the examination. For a PET scan, please specify when making your appointment that you are diabetic. Our medical secretaries will explain the special instructions for insulin treatment.
The hygiene and radiation protection rules in place permanently at our facilities are already in line with the protective measures necessary to deal with the current Covid-19 epidemic. In addition to these measures, even more rigorous hygiene is applied, with disinfection of equipment and cameras between each patient. The wearing of a FFP2 or surgical mask is compulsory for everyone and hydro-alcoholic gel is available in the waiting areas. No accompanying persons are allowed in the “hot” waiting areas for patients.
For all scintigraphy examinations (except DaTSCAN, gastric emptying or salivary glands), you will leave directly with your results given to you by the doctor 15-30 minutes after your examination. For PET scans, which are more challenging to analyse, a double reading of the scan is carried out by two nuclear medicine physicians. The results will then be sent directly to your prescribing doctor (securely online the same day on our website or at the latest the day after the scan, and by post within 48-72 hours).
After your examination, it is recommended that you drink more water (without sugar), which promotes diuresis and faster elimination of the radioactive tracer from your body (elimination by the kidneys and bladder). NO side effects have been clearly demonstrated after the injection of these radiotracers, so there are no special monitoring instructions.
Regardless of the type of examination carried out, no radioactive tracer induces drowsiness or alertness disorders requiring you to be accompanied. Accompanying persons will not be allowed in the waiting areas reserved for patients because of a legal obligation to separate injected patients (carriers of radioactivity) from accompanying persons or other members of the public.
Regardless of the type of examination carried out, no radioactive tracer induces drowsiness or alertness disorders requiring you to be accompanied. You will be able to drive after your examination (there are no reported alertness disorders secondary to the injection of our radiotracers).
In all our departments, you will find a cafeteria close by where you can purchase food. In view of the current circumstances, however, we request that you eat separately from other patients in order to avoid the possible spread of Covid-19.