Nuclear Medicine Services
Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities within the body.
Unlike other imaging techniques that focus on depicting structures (bones, ligaments, organs, etc) within the body, nuclear medicine imaging exams focus on depicting physiologic processes within the body. For example, our radiologists can use these exams to study sugar metabolism, cell receptor expression, or other chemical activity inside your body.
Some nuclear medicine imaging examinations use both positron emission tomography (PET) with the digital x-ray technology known as computed aided tomography (CT) to concurrently look at physiology and anatomy. The PET/CT scanner combines two scanning methods to assure more accurate diagnostic testing for our patients.
What is Nuclear Medicine Used For?
Nuclear medicine imaging scans can:
- analyze kidney function and obstruction
- visualize heart blood flow and function (such as a myocardial perfusion scan “stress test”)
- scan lungs for respiratory and blood flow problems
- identify inflammation in the gallbladder
- evaluate bones for fractures, infection, arthritis and tumors
- determine the presence or spread of cancer in various parts of the body
- identify bleeding into the bowel
- locate infection
- detect an overactive or underactive thyroid
- investigate abnormalities in the brain
- localize the lymph nodes before surgery in patients with breast cancer or melanoma skin cancer
These radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers. Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the radiotracer is either injected into a vein, swallowed in a pill, or inhaled as a gas.
Once inside the body, the radioactive material eventually accumulates in the organ or area of your body being examined, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays. This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera, a PET scanner and/or probe. These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and tissues. This differs from an x-ray or CT, where an image is made by passing x-rays through your body from an outside source.
Nuclear medicine also offers therapeutic procedures such as radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy, which uses radioactive material to treat cancer and other medical conditions affecting the thyroid gland.
Additional information about PET/CT examinations can be found at radiologyinfo.org (opens to new window).
Additional information about nuclear imaging can be found at Radiologyinfo.org (opens to new window).
Additional information about DEXA examinations can be found at radiologyinfo.org. (opens to new window).