A-Z of services

Medical physics

Medical Physics imaging is a safe and painless technique which provides medical images of the body.

The test can identify abnormalities very early in the progress of a disease, sometimes before problems are apparent with other tests you might have.

Medical Physics tests use small amounts of radioactive materials as tracers to diagnose or treat disease. In diagnosing a condition, the radiation is detected by a special type of camera called a “gamma camera”. It provides visual information about the area of the body being imaged by looking at the pattern of the tracers. The radiation doses are kept as low as possible,particularly for scans on children.

Are gamma rays dangerous?

The amount of radioactive tracer used to take the pictures is small and the radioactivity is short-lived.  The risk is outweighed by the benefit from the information that is gained by taking the scan. A doctor will have checked the request to make sure this is the optimal test before we contact you.
If you have any concerns or would like further information, please contact the department before your visit.

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.

What if l have diabetes and have been asked to stop eating on the day of the test?

If you have diabetes controlled by diet alone and are asked to stop eating before your test please contact the medical physics department on (0191) 4452710.  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 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 will be asked to lie on a couch or sit on a chair and the camera will be moved close to the area to be scanned. You do not go into a tunnel for this scan and staff can sit with you whilst it is being done.  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.

Do I need to remove any clothing for my scan?

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, coins in pockets.

How long will the test take?

The injection will take 10-15 minutes and the scan can take between 15 – 45 minutes depending on which scan you are having. Occasionally the scan may take longer. You will be told this when you have your injection.

I’m claustrophobic or don’t like small spaces

The gamma camera needs to be close to whichever part of the body we have been asked to look at but it won’t touch you. This can include your head area with some tests. The camera is not enclosed and medical physics staff will be in the room with you the whole time.

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.

Can I bring someone with me?

Yes – you may bring someone with you, but our waiting room is very small so we suggest only one person comes with you

The medical physics department is situated in radiology at the Queen Elizabeth hospital and you can contact the department on 0191 445 2710.

Call us on 0191 482 0000

In emergencies dial 999 / Non-emergencies dial 111

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