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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine tests and treatments are performed by specially trained technologists. Nuclear medicine enables doctors to view the structure and  function of the body including blood flow and organ function in the kidney, thyroid, lungs, heart, bowel, etc.

It uses radioactive isotopes, cameras and computers to image the body in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional imaging similar to CT or MRI exams. Some cameras are hybrid imagers performing both nuclear medicine and CT exams simultaneously. They are referred to as SPECT/CT cameras. Images are produced through the detection of energy emitted from the radioactive substances given to the patient.

Different radioactive isotopes are absorbed differently by various parts of the body allowing doctors to isolate specific organs and bodily functions.  Nuclear medicine also performs therapies using radio isotopes for patients with thyroid cancer, hyperthyroidism, bone tumor pain, endocrine and some lymphomas.

Prior to the nuclear medicine procedure the patient is given a radioactive substance. This can be by injection, inhalation or taken orally. Depending on the procedure, imaging may begin immediately or up to several days later. The patient lies on a table. A camera captures images while the patient lies still.

When the CT scan is not used, the nuclear medicine camera does not produce radiation. It picks up signals from the radioactive isotope you received before the test. The procedure is painless and on average takes anywhere from 45 minutes up to several hours and could require more than one visit, possibly on multiple days. The nuclear medicine technologist or the doctor that ordered your test will explain this to you before your procedure. 


Updated Sep 11, 2017