Skip to main content


Nuclear medicine scan


What is a nuclear medicine scan?

A nuclear medicine scan can provide important details needed to treat your child’s illness. A nuclear medicine scan involves taking pictures of places inside the body. To take these pictures, a staff member will inject your child’s IV with a small amount of a radioactive substance. For a short time, this substance will give off gamma rays. These rays can be seen and recorded by a nuclear medicine camera.

The radioactive substance will leave your child’s body or decay away within hours to a couple days. The time it takes the substance to leave the body depends on the type of radioactive substance used and the type of nuclear medicine test performed. The scan is not harmful to your child.

Precautions after the test

Even though the amount of radioactivity is very low, we recommend that you follow these precautions when caring for your child after the nuclear medicine scan:

  • Always wash your hands after changing patient diapers or handling body fluids.
  • Hold soiled diapers in a separate trash can for 2 days before placing them in the regular trash. [Note: Some landfills have radiation detectors that may alarm if they detect radioactivity coming from your trash. If your normal trash pickup is 2 or more days away, it should be fine to place the diapers in the regular trash.]
  • Pregnant women should not cuddle with the patient for at least 24 hours after the scan. Also, the patient should avoid direct contact with infants and toddlers until the next day.
  • Your child may set off radiation alarms at airports, border crossings, and other places protected by Homeland Security for the next several days. Please inform the nuclear medicine technologist if you might go through one of these areas in the near future. The technologist can give you written information about the test that was done. This information can be given to travel officials to help explain the test your child received.


The nuclear medicine technologist or the radiation safety officer (595-2957) can answer any questions you might have about the scan or precautions.

This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).