Geneva University Hospitals

Rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil 4
1205 Geneva

Valentina Garibotto
Valentina Garibotto
Head of Division (ad-interim)




What is scintigraphy?

Your physician has prescribed scintigraphy for you. This is a scan where a small amount of radioactive material is administered to the patient to produce images (or shots) of his/her body, hence the name nuclear medicine. These images, called scintigrams are in addition to radiographic images (CT scan, MRI, X-rays) and will help your physician to see the condition of the organ in question, complete the diagnosis and thus provide you with better care.


Who can get scintigraphy?

Anyone, even babies and the elderly (also see the section on preparing for the scan).


What happens during the scan?

The scan takes place in 3 stages: (1)You are administered the product, (2) followed by a variable waiting period, (3) The scans are produced using a device called a “gamma-camera”,

  • A small amount of the radioactive material is most often injected into a vein in your arm. If you already have an injection path open, it will be used.
  • After the injection, it may be necessary to wait some time before performing the scan, from a few minutes to 3 hours, depending on the organ to be examined. Since the waiting period varies from one exam to another, patients who arrived after you for other exams may be called in before you are.
  • During scintigraphy, you must remain still, either by lying down or, less often, being seated. The exam is always given by a technician

The device that captures the shots is called a gamma-camera. It will move very close to your body in order to obtain high-quality images. You will not have to go into a tunnel. You usually do not have to get undressed, but you should remove any large, metal objects (keys, pendant, belt buckles) that would create a shadow on the images. You will be able to go home (or back to your room) after the scan as soon as the images are checked.


Is the scan dangerous?

You will only be given a very low quantity of radioactivity, which is justified by the benefits obtained from the scan. Depending on the type of scan, it could be equivalent to a week in the mountains or several transatlantic trips by plane. Sometimes, the radiation you receive is comparable to that of a chest X-ray. In all cases, the amount of radiation you receive does not increase with the number of images produced. The injected substances are not toxic, do not cause allergies and are painless. Even in known cases of allergies, scintigraphy is only very rarely contraindicated.


Does this scan require special preparation?

Usually not, unless you have been advised when your appointment was made. Most often, you can eat and drink as normal before coming in, between the injection and scan, and after the scan. Drinking water even increases image quality. If you are pregnant or your menstrual period is late, you should report this before the injection. In some cases, precautions must be taken. You scintigraphy will have no effect on a pregnancy that begins after the exam. If you are breastfeeding, you should also report this. We will tell you if you have to stop breastfeeding and for how long.


Do I have to discontinue the medication I am currently taking?

For a lot of stratigraphy, there is no need to modify your treatment. If that is not your case, one of our staff members will have told you ahead of time.


Is the scan painful?

You will only feel the prick of the needle, which is like when blood is drawn. You will not feel any discomfort after the injection. The product injected will not make you drowsy and will not prevent you from driving.


How long does the scan take?

This varies depending on the organ to be examined: image capture usually takes between 15 minutes and 2 hours. Do not worry if the exam seems to take long or if multiple images are captured: we do this in order to obtain the best possible image quality.


What happens after the scan?

You can return to your normal daily activities, including your work. You can eat and drink. You may be told to drink lots of water. In fact, the little radioactivity remaining after the scan is eliminated naturally through your urine and stools. You are advised to avoid close and extended contact with young children (sitting them on your lap, for example) or with pregnant women, but only for the remainder of the day, the time it takes for the radioactivity to wear off.


Who gives me the scan results?

Your attending physician (who prescribed your scan) will receive the images directly, with a report, within an average of 5 days. They will give you the scan results and discuss a possible treatment to be followed. However, our medical staff is available to give you first results. We are unable, at times, to provide results immediately for technical reasons (computer image processing may take time).


Can I come in with a friend or a family member?

They are most welcome. However, as in all healthcare facilities, it is inappropriate to bring young children unless they are the ones undergoing the scan.


Please be sure to bring... (if you are not hospitalized)

  • Your doctor’s prescription or referral order
  • Any radiological, ultrasound or biological test results relevant to your current treatment, and any previous scintigrams
  • Your insurance ID card
Last update : 29/01/2019