What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive materials (also called radiopharmaceuticals) to diagnose and treat disease. Radiopharmaceuticals are substances that are attracted to specific organs, bones or tissues.
The radiopharmaceuticals used in nuclear medicine emit gamma rays that can be detected externally by special types of cameras. These cameras work in conjunction with computers to form images that provide data about the area of body being imaged.
While X-rays image the body’s anatomy, nuclear medicine shows actual organ function and physiology. For example, Nuclear Cardiology, which involves imaging the heart during vigorous exercise, helps us determine the function and viability of the heart muscle.
When is nuclear medicine used?
Nuclear medicine uses radioactive materials to help diagnose a variety of diseases and disorders, and to assess how different parts of your body are functioning. Typically, it is used to measure or detect hyperthyroidism, heart function, orthopedic injuries, blood clots in the lungs and liver and gall bladder functions.
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What happens during a nuclear medicine procedure?
During the procedure, you are given a low-level radioactive compound, called an isotope, which will be injected, inhaled or swallowed, depending on what type of test you are having. The isotope accumulates in the organ being examined. Depending on the exam, your technologist may ask you to return later, to give the isotope time to process in your body.
The organ to be examined will emit radiation continuously during the exam, radiation which is detected by a special camera and processed through a computer. Patients typically do not experience side effects or allergic reactions since most of the compounds used in nuclear medicine are naturally-occurring substances in the body. The length of the exam varies, depending on type. A technologist will be available throughout the exam to answer questions.
What are the benefits and risks?
Nuclear medicine is non-invasive; it allows clinicians to get medical information that would not be available otherwise, or that would require surgical intervention. It is safe and painless, using very small doses of radioactive materials to diagnose and treat disease. The amount of radiation from a nuclear medicine procedure is comparable to that received during a regular X-ray exam. Nuclear medicine provides a valuable view of the structure and function of internal organs.
What are my nuclear medicine options?
The diagnostic use of nuclear medicine is increasing, and we provide a range of procedures to meet that need.
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