Radioisotope Scan Radiology Department Medical Physics

Radioisotope Scan

Gamma camera

What is a radioisotope scan? 

This is a scan to look at the function of certain organs in the body.

Is there any preparation?

For most scans you do not need to do anything special beforehand. You may need to stop eating before some tests. You will be asked to do this in your appointment letter if this is necessary.

Can l take my usual medication?

For most scans you can take your usual medication. You may need to stop some medication for certain tests. If this is necessary it will be stated in your appointment letter.

Is there anything I should tell the staff before the scan?

Yes. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, please inform us. We also need to know if you are breastfeeding as you will need to stop breastfeeding for several hours following the scan.

What if l have diabetes controlled by diet alone?

If you are asked to stop eating before your test please contact the Medical Physics department on (0191) 4452710

Advice on managing your diabetes

For most tests you will be able to carry on eating and drinking as normal. If you are asked to stop eating and you are seen at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for your diabetic care, please telephone the diabetic nurses on (0191) 4971539, for advice on how to manage your diabetes before and during your test. The diabetic nurses have copies of all the leaflets you have been sent.  If the diabetic nurses are not available, please leave your name and number and they will contact you. If your diabetes is managed by your GP and practice nurse, please seek advice from them about your diabetes medication before you come for your test.

What about work?

You may need to take the day of the test off depending on how long it takes. This will be made clear in your appointment letter.

What does the examination involve?

You will normally receive an injection into a vein in your arm for the scan. This does not affect how you feel. The injection contains a small amount of radioactivity which goes to the organ that we are looking at. You may then have to wait before the pictures are taken. The time you have to wait depends on which scan you are having and can range from a few minutes to several hours.  This information will be in your appointment letter. If you have to wait longer than one hour, you may leave the department but you may have to stay in the hospital, this will depend on which test you are having.

You will then have your pictures taken with a machine called a gamma camera. You do not need to undress but if you are wearing large items of metal these will need to be removed e.g. belt buckles, brooches, necklaces.

Most of the tests involve you lying down, some involve you sitting or standing in front of the camera. If you are unable to lie down, please contact the department on the number at the end of the leaflet for further advice

For some tests you will be given a drug which may have some minor effect on you. This will be explained at the time of your appointment.

Don’t worry too much if you still have unanswered questions – a member of staff will go through the procedure with you when you arrive in the department and answer any questions you might have.

How long will the test take?

The injection will take 10 to 15 minutes and the scan can take between 15 to 40 minutes depending on which scan you are having. Occasionally the scan may take longer. You will be told this when you have your injection.

What happens to the injection inside the body?

The injection will go to the organ that we are looking at. You may be asked to drink more than usual for the rest of the day. This is to wash the radioactivity out of your body. The rest will disappear naturally over time.


Minor: There is a very small risk of a reaction to the injection, e.g. a rash on the skin in patients who tend to be hypersensitive.

You will be given a radioactive substance for this procedure. The risks involved are low and a licensed doctor has judged that the benefits of doing the test outweigh the risks; if you wish to know more please visit the IAEA website; if you still have questions regarding radiation risk please get in touch with us.

Alternative procedure

Your consultant has asked us to do this test as it is the best way to look at the working of body organs. If you do not wish to have this test you must discuss this with the doctor who referred you. There may be a different scan that can be done.

Can l drive?

Yes, this test will have no impact on your ability to drive.

When do l get the results?

The Medical Physics staff will not be able to give you your results after the test. This information is reported to your consultant and he will arrange either a letter to inform you of the examination results, a follow up clinic appointment or you could possibly be seen by a Nurse Specialist.

Contact numbers for advice.

Medical Physics Department
Tel: (0191) 445 2710
Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm