Thyroid Scan and Uptake

The thyroid gland can be studied a number of ways in the Nuclear Medicine department. Because the thyroid normally needs iodine to make thyroid hormone, a radioactive isotope of iodine is used which allows us to measure how well the thyroid gland is functioning (thyroid iodine uptake) and to obtain images of the thyroid gland (thyroid scan). Both the uptake and scan procedures usually involve two visits to the Nuclear Medicine department.

On the first day, you will be asked to swallow a small amount of radioactive iodine in a capsule. This visit should take about 15 minutes. The next day, you will return for the scan and uptake procedures, which will take one hour or longer.

Preparation for Your Exam

If you are taking thyroid medications, a mineral supplement with iodine, or other medications or preparations that contain iodine, you may be asked to stop them for a time before this test. Check with your physician regarding the timing of your medications.

Please do not eat anything after midnight on the night before you are scheduled to take the radioactive iodine capsule. If you are diabetic, please consult with your doctor before you change your diet or medications. You may otherwise drink clear liquids for breakfast and take any non-thyroid medications prescribed by your doctor. On the day of your exam, you will be able to eat normally two hours after you take the capsule.

During the Exam

For the scan, you will lie on your back on an imaging table with the camera positioned above you. We will take several images of your thyroid. Each image takes five or ten minutes. Then, a Nuclear Medicine physician will examine your gland. We may then take additional images to look at a certain part of your gland in detail. The imaging procedure will take about 45 minutes.

The uptake procedure measures the absorption of the radioactive iodine by your thyroid gland. As you sit comfortably in a chair, a detector will be positioned several inches from your neck, and the amount of the radioiodine in your thyroid gland will be recorded. This will take ten or fifteen minutes.

Safety Issues

Nuclear Medicine procedures are very safe. The radioactive material is cleared quickly from your body. With a normally functioning thyroid gland, the whole body radiation dose is 0.03 rem, which is less than most routine X-ray procedures.

Making an Appointment

When you call, we'll ask you for basic information such as your Social Security number. We'll ask you what type of test you need to schedule, and will schedule you for the best possible time. If you need to reschedule your exam, you can call us back and we'll be happy to arrange a better time for you.

When you call to schedule your exam, we'll also give you important information about preparing for the exam. If your doctor has scheduled the exam for you, and you have questions regarding the preparation or the procedure itself, you can call the imaging department where your procedure is being performed (please refer to our 'Locations' page for exact phone numbers).

Your physician will have several tasks to perform:

Complete the necessary paperwork to order the test (similar to writing a prescription for medication)

Fax, mail, or place the order in our computer system

Call us to schedule a test for you or have your physician call us directly

Obtaining Your Images

Exam Image Availability

DRC's state-of-the-art PACS technology offers you immediate access to the images of your radiologic exam. No longer does your physician have to wait to have copies of your films made. Although we can still print your X-ray on film for you with just 24 hours notice, your physician can now review your exam images immediately via the Internet. We offer safe and secure web access for your physician through Specialty Networks. Your privacy and HIPAA compliance is assured.

Images on a CD

If your physician prefers, the digital images from your study can be written to a CD-ROM, giving him/her a permanent record that can be accessed easily and quickly via a computer. CDs hold multiple studies and take up significantly less space than the traditional film in the brown envelope. A 24-hour notice is also requested to create this digital record for you.

Versatile Image Viewing Options

Internet access to your studies for your doctor is available immediately after your pictures are taken. Copies of your images can be obtained on a CD or on film with 24 hours notice.

Both Internet and CD viewing offer your physician the ability to digitally adjust your images in ways not possible with traditional X-ray film. Using the computer, the image can be made lighter or darker or zoomed for better visualization of a particular portion, for example. Your physician can fine-tune the images to accommodate his or her preferences.

Obtaining Copies of Your Images

To receive a CD or film copies of exam images, please follow these steps:

1. Call the location where your examination was performed (please refer to the locations page). Please provide your name and other identifying information along with the study being requested. With 24 hours notice, we can either create a CD-ROM or print a film for you. Our representative at the imaging center will provide you with the times available to pick up the exam.

2. To protect your privacy, please be sure to bring a picture ID when you pick up your CD/films, you will have to sign a Medical Images Release form when receiving your CD/films. If anyone else picks up your CD/films for you, please be sure to give him or her your written authorization to release your information to him or her.

3. If you would like us to send a copy of your study to a physician outside the DRC system, we will need a signed release from you along with the study you would like sent and the receiving doctor's name and address. You can fax or deliver us that release in the form of a signed letter at the fax number listed on the locations page. Please allow us plenty of time to send your films.

Any Costs

Currently the first set of films is provided at no cost to the patient. There is no charge for CD-ROM's and, of course, the Internet is always free.


For the convenience of our patients, we offer Imaging Scans at several DRC locations:

Battlefield Imaging
Chattanooga Outpatient Center
Diagnostic Center
Diagnostic PET/CT of Chattanooga
Hutcheson Medical Center
Tennessee Imaging & Vein Center