Friday, January 28, 2022

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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is one of the older non-X-Ray medical imaging technologies; it was developed in the 1960s, and has been steadily refined since then.  In a nuclear medicine study, the patient is administered a dose of slightly radioactive material, commonly called a ‘tracer,’ either intravenously or orally.  .  The tracer material is designed to be absorbed by specific parts of the body, such as the heart or bones.  There are several different tracer materials that might be administered, depending on which organs or systems need to be evaluated.  The diagnostic scanner detects the location and concentration of the tracer material in the body by sensing the small amounts of radiation it gives off.  Observing the location and amount of the material that is absorbed provides a great deal of information to the radiologist.   

The amount of radiation emitted by the tracer materials is very small, and the materials we use decay very quickly, so there is little risk.  The total radiation exposure generally is about the same as an abdominal CT scan, and in some cases is significantly less.

In addition to Nuclear Medicine Imaging, we also perform some Nuclear Medicine Therapy.  In these procedures, chemicals similar to the tracers are used to send larger doses of radioactive materials to specific organs as an alternative to external radiation therapy.   The most common nuclear medicine therapy procedures are for treating hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer.

You may have some special preparation instructions before your study; please carefully follow the instructions provided to you by your doctor and the center.  There are generally no ill effects or discomfort associated with nuclear medicine studies, but when filling out your paperwork, be careful to include any known allergies on your forms, as some of the tracer materials include chemicals, like iodine, that you might have a reaction to.

A Nuclear Medicine procedure, which utilizes a small amount of radioactive substance, can help to diagnose disease. These substances, or tracers, are attracted to specific organs, bones or tissues. When introduced into the body, the tracers give off emissions, which are picked up by a special camera. Images or "scans" are produced from the camera, which provide information about the body part being imaged.

Nuclear Medicine procedures have no greater risk than a conventional X-ray procedure with respect to radiation exposure.  A team of specially trained doctors and technologists will perform the exam.  Diagnostic scans performed in Nuclear Medicine require no surgery or hospitalizaton.

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