What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear Medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, known as radiopharmaceuticals, to examine the structure and function of organs. Since x-rays pass through soft tissue, such as intestines, muscles, and blood vessels, these contrast agents must be used to visualize certain parts of the body. Nuclear Medicine procedures use low-dose radioactive isotopes to trace the functioning of the lungs, kidneys, stomach, colon, endocrine and neurological systems. It also helps diagnose certain tumors, metastatic disease and infections in the body early in the progression of a disease.  These procedures can also aid in the detection of aneurysms, irregular or inadequate blood flow to tissues, and blood cell disorders or organs function disorders (e.g., thyroid and pulmonary function deficiencies).

Most Nuclear Medicine studies require the injection of a radioactive isotope just prior to the imaging study. The timing of the injection depends on the body tissue being examined, as determined by a radiologist. Nuclear medicine techniques include Positron Emission Tomography (PET), combined PET/CT, and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT).