Nuclear medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, to examine organ function. It is often used to help diagnose and treat abnormalities very early in the disease lifecycle.
Nuclear medicine specialists administer radiopharmaceuticals to patients and then monitor the tissues or organs in which the drugs localize. They operate special cameras that detect and map the radioactive drug in a patient's body. Abnormal areas show higher-than-expected or lower-than-expected concentrations of radioactivity.
Nuclear medicine differs from other diagnostic imaging technologies because it often determines the presence of disease on the basis of metabolic changes, rather than changes in organ structure.
Common Nuclear Scans
Some of the more commonly performed nuclear medicine scans:
- Bone scans - used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints, to detect bone diseases and tumors, and/or to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.
- Brain scans - used to investigate problems within the brain and/or in the blood circulation to the brain.
- Gallium scans (White cell scans) - used to diagnose active infectious and/or inflammatory diseases, tumors, and abscesses.
- Heart scans - used to identify abnormal blood flow to the heart, to determine the extent of the damage of the heart muscle after a heart attack, and/or to measure heart function.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) - measures important body functions, such as blood flow, oxygen use, and sugar (glucose) metabolism, to help doctors evaluate how well organs and tissues are functioning.
- Renal scans - used to examine the kidneys and to detect any abnormalities, such as tumors or obstruction of the renal blood flow.
- Thyroid scans - used to evaluate thyroid function
Our nuclear medicine radiologists have mastered the most advanced and complex treatments available and perform the full breadth of nuclear medicine radiology tests and procedures.