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What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear Medicine is the subdivision of Medical Imaging which is used to diagnose different body part conditions. This method is very secure, painless, cost-effective than other tests to know about our health condition. Nuclear Medicine is able to find out the abnormalities at the earlier stage and helps to manage, treat and prevent it. This process uses a small amount of radioactive material to determine the seriousness of a variety of diseases like heart disorders, neurological disorders, cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, etc.

Diagnosis

The process that takes place in Nuclear Medicine is a patient will inhale, swallow or inject the radioactive substance called Radiopharmaceuticals or Radiotracers. After taking the radioactive substance, the patient will simply lie on the bed and the material will pass through the body. It reaches the specific part where we need to check. At that time a camera will take the images of the internal body with the help of radioactive emissions from the radiotracer. Through these images the doctor can diagnose what is the problem and where it is. By using this technique patient can recognize the disease at the earlier stage.


Most of the medical labs use Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with Nuclear Imaging to provide better results. This method helps to get the details from two separate tests to be connected and provides accurate results. Also, the Imaging techniques include Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT). It provides better information about body organ functions, conditions, etc.


Nuclear Medicine can be used in both adult and children to view the body parts, tissues, bones, their functions, etc. Here we point out some uses of Nuclear Medicine in adults & children.

In an adult, we can visualize the heart, lungs, bones, brain, renal, other system functions, Cancer condition, etc.

Heart

Helps to diagnose blood flow and functions, destruction of heart, coronary artery diseases. It also evaluates the condition of the heart during Chemotherapy, Bypass surgery, Angioplasty, heart transplant rejection.

Lungs

Detects blood flow and respiratory issues, lungs transplant rejection.

Bones

Analyze bone fractures, infection, bone tumors, arthritis, other bone diseases, etc.

Brain

  • investigate abnormalities in the brain in patients with certain symptoms or disorders, such as seizures, memory loss and suspected abnormalities in blood flow
  • detect the early onset of†neurological†disorders such as†Alzheimers disease
  • assist in surgical planning and localize seizure foci
  • evaluate for abnormalities in a chemical in the brain involved in controlling movement in patients with suspected Parkinsons disease or related movement disorders
  • evaluation for suspected brain tumor recurrence, surgical or radiation planning or localization for biopsy

Other Systems

  • identify inflammation or abnormal function of the gallbladder
  • identify bleeding into the¬†bowel
  • assess post-operative complications of gallbladder surgery
  • evaluate lymphedema
  • evaluate fever of unknown origin
  • locate the presence of infection
  • measure thyroid function to detect an overactive or underactive thyroid
  • help diagnose hyperthyroidism and blood cell disorders
  • evaluate for hyperparathyroidism
  • evaluate stomach emptying
  • evaluate spinal fluid flow and potential spinal fluid leaks

In adults and children, nuclear medicine is also used to:

Cancer

  • stage cancer by determining the presence or spread of cancer in various parts of the body
  • localize sentinel lymph nodes before surgery in patients with breast cancer or skin and soft tissue tumors.
  • plan treatment
  • evaluate response to therapy
  • detect the recurrence of cancer
  • detect rare tumors of the pancreas and adrenal glands

Renal

  • analyze native and transplant kidney blood flow and function
  • detect†urinary†tract obstruction
  • evaluate for hypertension related to the kidney arteries
  • evaluate kidneys for infection versus scar
  • detect and follow-up urinary reflux

In children, nuclear medicine is also used to:

  • investigate abnormalities in the†esophagus, such as esophageal reflux or motility disorders
  • evaluate the openness of tear ducts
  • evaluate the openness of ventricular shunts in the brain
  • assess congenital heart disease for shunts and pulmonary blood flow

Nuclear medicine therapies include:

  • Radioactive iodine†(I-131) therapy used to treat some causes of¬†hyperthyroidism¬†(overactive thyroid gland, for example,¬†Graves disease) and thyroid cancer
  • Radioactive¬†antibodies¬†used to treat certain forms of lymphoma (cancer of the¬†lymphatic system)
  • Radioactive phosphorus (P-32) used to treat certain blood disorders
  • Radioactive materials used to treat painful¬†tumor¬†metastases¬†to the bones
  • I-131 MIBG (radioactive iodine labeled with metaiodobenzylguanidine) used to treat adrenal gland tumors in adults and adrenal gland/nerve tissue tumors in children