The data-driven Pixon noise-reduction method is applied to nuclear studies. By using the local information content, it preserves all statistically justifiable image features without generating artifacts. Statistical measures provide the user a feedback to judge if the processing parameters are optimal. The present work focuses on planar nuclear images with known Poisson noise characteristics. Its ultimate goals are to: (a) increase sensitivity for detection of lesions of small size and/or of small activity-to-background ratio, (b) reduce data acquisition time, and (c) reduce patient dose. Data are acquired using Data Spectrum’s cylinder phantom in two configurations: (a) with hot and cold rod inserts at varying total counts and (b) with hot sphere inserts at varying activity-to-background ratios. We show that the method adapts automatically to both hot and cold lesions, concentration ratios, and different noise levels and structure dimensions. In clinical applications, slight adjustment of the parameters may be needed to adapt to the specific clinical protocols and physician preference. Visually, the processed images are comparable to raw images with ~16 times as many counts, and quantitatively the reduced noise equals that obtained with ~50 times as many counts. We also show that the Pixon method allows for identification of spheres at low concentration ratios, where raw planar imaging fails and matched filtering underperforms. Conclusion: The Pixon method significantly improves the image quality of data at either reduced count levels, or low target-to-background ratios. An analysis of clinical studies is now warranted to assess the clinical impact of the method.