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Nuclear Medicine

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, to examine organ function and structure. Nuclear medicine imaging is a combination of many different disciplines, including chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer technology and medicine. This branch of radiology is often used to help diagnose and treat abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease, such as thyroid cancer.

Why use Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear imaging enables visualization of organ and tissue structure as well as function. A nuclear medicine scan consists of three phases: tracer (radiopharmaceutical) administration, taking images and image interpretation. Scans are used to diagnose many medical conditions and diseases. Some of the more common tests include the following:

  • renal scans - used to examine the kidneys and detect any abnormalities
  • thyroid scans - used to evaluate thyroid function
  • bone scans - used to evaluate any degenerative or arthritic changes in the joints, detect bone diseases and tumors and determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation
  • gallium scans - used to diagnose active infectious 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 measure heart function
  • brain scans - used to investigate problems within the brain or in the blood circulation to the brain
  • breast scans - often used with mammograms to locate cancerous tissue in the breast