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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Expected Duration

A radionuclide is either injected into a vein or given to you as a pill. Timing of the test then depends on the type of radionuclide your doctor uses, and whether you will also have an uptake test.

If you are having only a thyroid scan and your doctor prefers to give a radionuclide by intravenous injection, the scan can be done within 3060 minutes. If you are given radioactive iodine in pill form, you need to wait four to six hours, and possibly as long as a day after taking the pill, before having the scan. (This gives the radioactive iodine time to reach your thyroid.)

If you're having both a scan and the uptake test, you are likely to receive radioactive iodine in pill form. This allows one radionuclide to be used for both the scan and uptake test, instead of two, and eliminates the need for an injection.

After you've received the radionuclide and have waited the appropriate amount of time, a technician places a radioactivity detector a camera specially designed to take pictures of radioactive objects against your neck and takes several images. The camera itself doesn't expose you to any radiation. This portion of the test usually takes about half an hour.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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