Nuclear medicine is used in the diagnosis, management, treatment, and prevention of serious disease. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease, long before some medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests. This early detection allows a disease to be treated early in its course when there may be a more successful prognosis.
Nuclear medicine involves the use of small amounts of radioactive materials (or tracers) to help diagnose and treat a variety of diseases. Nuclear medicine determines the cause of the medical problem based on the function of the organ, tissue or bone. This is how nuclear medicine differs from an x-ray, ultrasound or other diagnostic test that determines the presence of disease based on structural appearance.
Millions of nuclear medicine tests are performed each year in the United States alone. Nuclear medicine tests are safe and painless. In a nuclear medicine procedure, the radioactive material is introduced into the body by injection, swallowing, or inhalation. Different tracers are used to study different parts of the body. Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest diagnostic imaging tests available. The amount of tracer used is carefully selected to provide the least amount of radiation exposure to the patient but ensure an accurate test. The amount of radiation from a nuclear medicine procedure is comparable to that received during a diagnostic x-ray.
A special camera (scintillation or gamma camera) is used to take pictures of your body. The camera does this by detecting the tracer in the organ, bone or tissue being imaged and then records this information on a computer screen or on film. Generally, nuclear medicine tests are not recommended for pregnant women because unborn babies have a greater sensitivity to radiation than children or adults.
Nuclear medicine is an integral part of patient care and contributes to the well being of patients worldwide.
Prepare for your Nuclear Medicine appointment