Nuclear medicine is a specialty, which uses safe, painless techniques both to image the body and treat disease. Nuclear medicine is unique in that it documents organ function and structure. In contrast, other diagnostic imaging modalities are based on anatomy. We are able to gather information that may otherwise be unavailable, require surgery or necessitate more expensive testing.
Nuclear medicine is an integral part of patient care. It is used in the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of serious disease. Nuclear medicine imaging often identifies 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 uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, to diagnose and treat disease. Radiopharmaceuticals are introduced into the body by injection, inhalation or ingestion. Once in the body they are attracted to specific organs or disease processes. A special type of camera, a gamma camera, is used to take a picture. This picture provides valuable information for your doctor to use in the management of your care.
Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest diagnostic imaging exams available. A patient only receives an extremely small amount of radiopharmaceutical, just enough to provide sufficient diagnostic information. In fact, the amount of radiation from a nuclear medicine procedure is comparable to or often times less than that of a diagnostic x-ray.
Frequently Performed Examinations
- Bone scans – examines presence of tumors and unexplained bone pain
- Heart scans – analyzes heart function, ensures function in maintained
- Liver/Spleen scans – analyzes liver/spleen function
- Octreoscans – detects presence and location of tumors
- Gallium scans – analyzes thyroid function, shows gland structure