Nuclear Medicine/PET (Molecular Imaging)

Physicians in UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Nuclear Medicine/PET Program use small amounts of radioactive medicine (radiopharmaceuticals) to produce images or deliver radiation to a specific area to treat diseases such as lymphoma, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer.


Nuclear medicine imaging is unique because it provides doctors with information about both structure and function, such as blood flow, filtration, and metabolism, of the various organs being scanned. It’s a way to gather medical information that would otherwise be unavailable, require surgery, or necessitate more expensive diagnostic tests.

Through nuclear medicine, our physicians can often identify abnormalities very early in the progress of a disease, long before many medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests.

Positron emission tomography (PET), one nuclear medicine imaging technique, can produce a 3-D picture of the functional processes within an organ system or the whole body.   

How it Works

When you undergo nuclear medicine imaging, you’re usually injected with the radiopharmaceutical substance, although it may be ingested or inhaled. The amount of radioactivity is very small, and there is no significant danger from nuclear medicine scans.

A camera scans you and detects the gamma radiation (similar to X-rays) coming from the radioactive material inside you. Scans usually occur as you lie on a table with the camera placed a few inches away. You may also be seated or in some other position depending on the information the scan is obtaining.

Nuclear medicine scans vary in length but usually require an hour to an hour and a half of imaging.

After the Procedure

You can usually can resume your normal activities immediately after a procedure, unless your doctor says otherwise. The radioactive material will lose its energy over time. You should drink plenty of water to help flush it from your system.

Our dedicated nuclear medicine physicians interpret the images and functional information to identify diseases and conditions earlier and more accurately than when using other radiological exams. This information can provide you and your physician with better treatment and planning options.