All hospital visitors are recommended to wear a medical face mask. Expand this message for information about visiting hospital.

Last updated:
13 March 2023

Some visitor restrictions for all Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury hospitals and health facilities remain in place, but we have relaxed others.

There is still a heightened risk to vulnerable people in hospital and so we recommend all people wear a mask when visiting any of our facilities and follow other advice designed to keep patients, staff and  visitors safe.

To keep everybody safe:

  • Visitors or support people must not visit our facilities if they are unwell. Do not visit if you have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and haven’t completed your isolation period.
  • Patients may have more than one visitor, except in some situations such as multi-bed rooms where it can cause overcrowding.
  • Surgical/medical masks are recommended to be worn at all sites. Masks will be provided if you don’t have one.
  • For Specialist Mental Health Services everyone is strongly encouraged to wear a face mask in all inpatient areas and areas where consumers are receiving care (i.e. community appointments, home-visits, transporting people). Discretion may be applied in cases where masks impair your ability to communicate effectively.
  • Visitors must not eat or drink in multibed rooms because of the increased risk when multiple people remove their face mask in the same space.
  • Hand sanitiser is available and must be used.

Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as our staff work hard to protect and care for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Visiting patients with COVID-19

  • People can visit patients who have COVID-19 but they must wear an N95 mask – this will be provided if you don’t have one.
  • Other methods of communication will be facilitated e.g. phone, Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp etc where visits aren’t possible.

All of our Hospitals

Visiting hours for our hospitals have returned to pre COVID-19 hours with the exception of Christchurch Women’s Hospital.

All visitors are recommended to wear a medical face mask.

Parents/caregivers are able to be with their child in hospital and visitors are now allowed, except for the Children’s Haematology and Oncology Day stay where just one parent/caregiver is able to attend their appointment with their child. Exceptions by special arrangement only.

Patients and visitors should also read the additional more detailed visiting guidelines for each specific hospital.

More COVID-19 information

Molecular Imaging and Therapy

Molecular Imaging and Therapy (formerly known as Nuclear Medicine) has been around since the beginning of the 1900s and is a branch of medicine that uses radioactivity for diagnosis or therapy.

Unlike x-rays, CT and MRI scans that give structural information, Molecular imaging demonstrates the function of an organ or organ system by monitoring the passage, accumulation, or excretion of a radiopharmaceutical (a radioactive pharmaceutical).

To perform Molecular Imaging, the radiopharmaceutical is first administered to the patient, usually intravenously. Depen​​ding on the type of scan, the pictures may be taken immediately and/or after a period of time during which the pharmaceutical localises in the target organ or system.

Many injuries or disease processes tend to affect the function of an organ before the structure is altered. Molecular Imaging plays an essential role in helping with the early diagnosis of a wide variety of diseases and conditions, which in turn can make treatment timelier and more effective.

Specialist services provided by Molecular Imaging and Therapy Christchurch Hospital include; Diagnostic Imaging, Radiopharmacy and Radionuclide Therapies.

How are the Images taken?

The patient is asked to lie still on an imaging bed. The gamma camera or SPECT/CT camera is positioned above and below the area/s of interest. The camera detects the signals​ (gamma rays) from the radiation that is emitted from the patient's body. Images are obtained of the distribution within the body over a period of time. The scan may take between 10 and 120 minutes, depending on the type of study. The patient is required to lie still for the duration of the scan.

  • ​A Static image is one picture​ taken over a set time period.
  • Dynamic images are lots​ of continuous pictures which can be played back like a movie and used to measure clearance of a radiopharmaceutical from the organ of interest. The camera remains set in one position for these scans.
  • For whole body scans, the imaging bed moves the patient past the detectors, imaging from head to toe.
  • For tomography (SPECT) the detectors move round the patient to form a 3D image. Sometimes SPECT i​s followed by a low dose CT scan (SPECT/CT); the two sets of images are then fused to enhance anatomical localisation.

The mai​n advantages of SPECT/CT are:

  • Bett​er attenuation correction ie. correcting for patient size and contour.
  • Increased speci​ficity
  • Accurate localisation of abnormal uptake/disease and possible involvement of adjacent str​uctures eg. bone scans.
  • Aiding the ​planning of minimally invasive surgery as it assists in pre-surgical localisation eg. parathyroid imaging.


Note: If you are using an older browser and cannot see the video above, it can be viewed on

Note: If you are using an older browser and cannot see the video above, it can be viewed on

​​​Hospital Referrals

  • Electronic order entry (e-referral)

 Private Specialist Referrals

GP Referrals

  • ERMS referral. Healthpathways - Investigations  Radiology -  Molecular Imaging Request. Select: Radionuclide Bone ScanRadionuclide Thyroid Scan or Radionuclide Scan for other scan types. 
  • For clinical criteria, refer to Bone Pain Pathway or Thyroid Pathway.

  • ACC funded Bone Scans must be referred by a Specialist. ​

Referral Guidelines


  • Full name of patient i.e. legal name including all middle names with correct spelling

  • Date of birth and NHI number

  • Mailing address including postcode, email if available

  • Contact telephone numbers (include cell for txt reminder).

  • Name of Referrer and Practice

  • Service Requested

  • ACC number if applicable, include date and details of accident


  • Provisional diagnosis and /or presenting problem

  • Severity and duration

  • Current medications/ known allergies

  • Relevant patient history

Relevant Patient Information

  • Weight (mandatory)
  • Any disabilities, mobility or cognitive problems, special needs e.g. interpreter, hoist etc.

  • ​​​

Availability of Imaging Procedures

  • For URGENT scansphone reception (03 3640 867, ext. 80867, 8am - 4pm). Urgent requests are performed as soon as possible, a referral is required before any booking can be made.

  • All efforts are made to scan patients within the requested time frames and according to clinical triage guidelines.

  • Routine appointments are generally booked and sent out within a week.

  • Some types of scans are grouped together and others are only available on certain days.

  • Some specialised scans are not routinely available, contact Molecular Imaging and Therapy for advice before ordering.  

pet.jpgPositron Emission Tomography (PET) is used to demonstrate the metabolic activity of organs and other tissues such as tumours. A radioactive compound called 18FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose) is injected into the patient and the radioactive emissions are measured by a PET/CT scanner. PET is considered particularly effective in identifying whether certain types of cancers are present, if they have spread and if the patient is responding to treatment.

Te Whatu Ora, Waitaha Canterbury does not have a public hospital PET facility. A private PET facility is located at; 

Pacific Radiology - Southern Cross 
129 Bealey Avenue

What are Radiopharmaceuticals?

The Radiopharmacy is an integral part of the Nuclear Medicine Department that deals largely with the preparation, dispensing and quality control of radio-pharmaceuticals.

Most of the doses used in diagnostic imaging Generator.JPGuse the radioactive element Technetium-99m which is obtained from a small Molybdenum-99 Generator, delivered to the department at the start of each week. Technetium is often mixed with a non-radioactive compound in order to localise the radiopharmaceutical in a specific area in the body.

Other types of radioactive compounds may be used for specialised scans or therapies. They must be used within a set period of time, which is dependant on the radioactive half-life or decay time (the time it takes for a radioactive substance to loose half its radioactivity).

Each type of Nuclear Medicine procedure will have a prescribed radiopharmaceutical and radioactive dose, measured in MBq. The amount of radioactivity is kept as low as possible and is individually calculated for children based on weight. Injection.jpg

The dose is usually administered by IV injection into a vein in the arm (pictured) but can also be given subcutanously (Sentinal Lymph Node), orally (Gastric Emptying)  or breathed in as a gas (Lung Ventilation Scan).     

The short 6-hour half-life of Technetium means that the radiopharmaceutical will clear rapidly from the body. Some radiopharmacuticals may also be cleared through the urine or excreted in breast milk.

For some scans, adults are advised to avoid close, continuous, contact with children for the rest of the day (refer to appointment letter). 

It is important for us to know if you are Pregnant or Breastfeeding.    

What about Safety?

In Molecular Imaging, every precaution is taken. 

 Exposure to radiation is:

Only small quantities are used for diagnosis.
The radioactive compounds used in diagnostic tests are quickly eliminated from the body.
Carefully Controlled:

Imaging services are IANZ Accredited which means that high standards for quality and safety are set and maintained.
The department is also accredited with the ANZSNM.
The Office of Radiation Safety is a Specialist Unit within the  NZ Ministry of Health responsible for regulating the use of ionising radiation.

Radioiodine (Iodine-131) Therapy


  • Thyrotoxicosis (Thyroid overactivity)

  • Multinodular goitre

  • Thyroid cancer Radioiodine for Thyroid Cancer Radioiodine Treatment for Thyrotoxicosis

How the Radioiodine works

Radioiodine works by destroying a large number of thyroid cells. The treatment is most commonly given in a drink of water or as a capsule, similar in size to an antibiotic capsule, the radioiodine has no taste. Occasionally more than one treatment is required.

How safe is Radioiodine?

Radioiodine is a very safe and effective treatment that has been used since the 1940's. Patients will be radioactive for a short period following therapy and will need to observe some simple measures to reduce radiation exposure to other people during this time. Most patients develop hypothyroidism (thyroid underactivity) following treatment. Close follow-up with blood tests is necessary to detect this so that replacement thyroid hormone (thyroxine) can be started early.

Referral process

Patients are referred to the Thyroid Endocrine Physicians for treatment. The Physicians will discuss the indications and outcome fully and give radiation protection instructions. For Canterbury patients, follow-up will be arranged at the Thyroid Clinic.

Strontium-89 Therapy


  • Metastatic prostatic carcinoma

How the Strontium-89 works

Strontium-89 behaves like calcium in the body, when injected it will collect in the bone metastases (secondaries). These are areas of bone which are absorbing extra calcium and are often painful. It will then deliver radiation directly to the affected area, giving relief from pain.

How safe is Strontium-89?

The effects of Strontium-89 within the body are limited to the small area where it concentrates. It cannot cause any harm to any other people by bodily contact. However during the first few days after injection, some strontium-89 will be present in the blood and urine so the patient will be instructed to observe rigorous hygiene during this time.

Referral process

Patients are referred by an Oncologist licensed to give this therapy. They will discuss the indications and outcome fully and give radiation protection instructions. Molecular Imaging and  Therapy staff will arrange the Strontium-89 delivery, dispense the dose and organise the patient appointment.

Page last updated: 11 April 2024

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