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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear Medicine Services are available at:

Nuclear medicine imaging procedures are noninvasive and usually painless. Nuclear medicine uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases. The scans help doctors diagnose many conditions, including cancers, injuries and infections. Nuclear medicine scans can also display how organs, like your heart, brain and lungs, are functioning.

How Nuclear Medicine Works 

Nuclear scans involve a special camera that detects energy emitting from the radioactive substance, called a radiotracer. The energy being emitted is detected by a device called a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Before the test, patients receive the radiotracer by injection, by swallowing or inhaling a gas. Although radiotracers are radioactive, the dosage is small. 

The low-level radioactive chemicals used in these studies are taken up in different concentrations by different tissue types in the body. For example, because cancer cells begin to grow at a much faster rate than normal body cells, the cancer cells display as different colors. 

During most nuclear scanning tests, patients lie still on a scanning table while the camera makes images. Most scans take 30 to 120 minutes. The images produced on a computer show the structure and function of internal body parts. 

Nuclear medicine imaging scans are performed to:

  • Locate an infection
  • Analyze kidney function
  • Look at blood flow to the heart and its function
  • Scan a patient’s lungs
  • Study dementia
  • Identify inflammation in the gallbladder
  • Evaluate a stroke (blood clot or bleeding in the brain)
  • Determine the presence or spread of cancer in various parts of the body
  • Find bleeding into the bowel
  • Measure thyroid function to detect an overactive or underactive thyroid
  • Investigate abnormalities in the brain, that would cause such things as seizures and memory loss
  • Localize lymph nodes before surgery in patients with breast cancer or melanoma

Nuclear medicine therapy is used to treat medical issues including:

  • Radioactive iodine therapy treats hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) and thyroid cancer
  • Radioactive antibodies treat certain forms of lymphoma
  • Radioactive phosphorus treats some blood disorders
  • Radioactive materials treat painful tumor metastases to the bones

Benefits of PET Scans

  • PET scans detect diseases sooner than they would normally show up on a CT or MRI scan
  • PET scans search the entire body for cancer in a single examination and show the extent of disease; they can reveal the primary site or sites and any metastases, allowing the doctor to know which treatment is appropriate
  • PET scans show whether a tumor is benign or malignant, avoiding the need for surgery
  • PET scans monitor progress and test recurrence of disease, which might not show up on an MRI or CT scan
How a PET Scan Differs from CT or MRI Scans 
CT and MRI scans look at the size and shape of organs and body structures. A PET scan, however, looks at an organ’s function. The information collected from a PET scan is different from any other test available.
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