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University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) provides a comprehensive range of diagnostic and interventional procedures using high specification imaging equipment. This is supported by the latest image evaluation software and distributed via the Picture Archiving Communication Systems (PACS) management platforms.

The Imaging department plays a key part in the treatment of the hundreds of thousands of patients treated across our hospitals every year.

The department has inpatient and outpatient facilities, as well as dedicated scanners located in A&E. The emergency imaging facility means access to the main imaging services can be planned more effectively, helping to support research trials which often involve regular and precisely scheduled imaging.


UHB runs inpatient and outpatient imaging as two parts of an integrated department.

These services are available during extended hours to cater to patients needing scans outside normal working hours.


The Imaging department provides a full range of clinical imaging services and can support individual research needs too.

The MRI equipment suite is used for non-standard scans which are requested and approved as part of the required research approvals process.

UHB’s Imaging and Nuclear Medicine teams play a major role in preparing research bids by ensuring the necessary resources are available and that any imaging components are consistent with patient safety and care.

Imaging staff are dedicated to coordinating research activity. They coordinate research imaging with regular clinical activity and have a key role in ensuring all imaging events are scheduled according to the relevant protocols. They also play a role in ensuring consistency of scanning methodology and compliance with relevant governance requirements.

Research support

The Imaging department plays a key role in research activity across all UHB specialties, including both cancer and non-cancer studies.


UHB’s Imaging department often work with local NHS trusts to support their own research work. These include:

  • Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust

Nuclear medicine

Nuclear medicine involves the use of radioactive materials to create images or deliver treatment.

The Nuclear Medicine department operates as a key part of the imaging service providing support to a broad range of research programmes.

Gamma camera

A gamma camera takes images by detecting the presence of a radioactive substance which has been introduced to the patient’s body, by injection, inhalation or ingestion. The substance used emits gamma rays, which are detected by the machine and converted into visual images. Different substances are used depending on the type of scan required.


The SPECT-CT machine uses a combination of a gamma camera and a CT machine, which takes a number of X-rays to create detailed images of the body’s structures. By merging the gamma camera and CT images, the SPECT-CT creates a new image which shows the distribution of the radioactive substance in relation to internal structures such as bones and organs.


The PET-CT scan uses a similar principle to the SPECT-CT, but uses a different type of radioactive material and detector.

PET stands for positron emission tomography, and uses biologically active positron-emitting substances, for example to image tissue metabolic activity.


A DXA scanner is a dual energy X-ray system that takes pictures and measures the density of bone in different parts of the body. This is used for osteoporosis diagnosis and research.

Non-imaging capabilities

Nuclear medicine can also be used to provide data which is not presented as an image. These measurements include:

  • glomerular filtration rate (the gold standard for establishing kidney function)
  • red cell mass
  • plasma volume


The use of nuclear medicine in research is not limited to generating data. Some research looks at how the use of radioactive materials can actually help treat conditions.

UHB has a Radiopharmacy on site to prepare the materials it uses for such therapies, some of which are part of research programmes.

Last reviewed: 28 April 2021