Nuclear Medicine

By Elvir Karic

What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the use of small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose what disease is in the body, and what the severity of it is. It can also treat diseases including many types of cancers, heart disease, gastrointestinal, endocrine, neurological disorders and other abnormalities within the body.
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Nuclear medicine imaging procedures are noninvasive, except for injections, and they are usually painless medical tests that will allow physicians to treat and diagnose the medical condition. The radioactive imaging procedures use radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers. Depending on the type of nuclear exam, the radiotracer is injected, swallowed or inhaled as a gas. Nuclear medicine can also be offered as therapy which involves radioactive iodine (I-131) being used in small quantities to treat cancer and medical conditions which affect the thyroid-gland.

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Common uses of Nuclear medicine

For adults:

Nuclear medicine is used to treat and assess the heart, lungs, bones, and other parts of the body. The procedure visualizes the heart blood flow and it's function. It can also detect damage to the heart, and transplant rejection. For the lungs nuclear medicine scans the lungs for respiratory and blood flow problems. It can also detect lung transplant rejection(s). Nuclear medicine is able to evaluate bones for fractures, infections, and arthritis as well as evaluate bone tumors. For the brain nuclear medicine can do quite an amount. It is able to investigate abnormalities in the brain like seizures, memory loss, and blow flow. Detecting early onset of neurological disorders like Alzheimer disease is another procedure nuclear medicine can do. Nuclear medicine is able to evaluate brain tumors reoccurring, and surgical or radiation planning or localizing for biopsies. For the other parts of bodies nuclear medicine can identify inflammation or abnormal functions of the gallbladder. It can also locate the presence of infections, and it can evaluate fevers of unknown presence, stomach emptying, as well as hypeparathyroidism.

For children and adults:

For both children and adults nuclear medicine is used for Cancer and Renal. For Cancer it evaluates the stage of cancer, plan treatment, and evaluate the response nuclear radiation would have on cancer. Nuclear medicine also detects the recurrence of cancer, and if any rare tumors of the pancreas and adrenal glands. Nuclear medicine is used for Renal, known as kidney failure. It is able to analyze native and transplant kidney function, and evaluate hypertension related to the kidney arteries.

For children:

For children, nuclear medicine does not do as much as it can for children as it does for adults. It is able to investigate abnormalities in the esophagus, evaluate the openness of tear ducts, ventricular shunts in the brain , and assess congenital heart disease for shunts and pulmonary blood flow.

Nuclear medicine can do a lot for both adults and children even though it may not seem like it to everyone. Nuclear medicine can treat, evaluate, and identify a various amount of diseases and disorders with new and advanced technology. Many people have suffered diseases and disorders in the past, but today physicians can help those people in need.

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Before the procedure there may be a requirement to wear a gown, or you may be allowed to wear your own clothing items. When discussing the procedure allow your doctor to know of any medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements, as well as allergies or recent medical conditions. Make sure to inform the physician of pregnancy or a chance of pregnancy, and to tell them if breastfeeding is occurring. While the procedure is happening leave all jewelry or anything metallic at home if possible. Not following those directions can interfere with the process.


During the procedure a special camera or imaging devices are used in nuclear medicine. The gamma camera and single-photon emission-computed tomography are devices involved in nuclear medicine. The gamma camera is able to detect radiation from the patients body, and it then turns it into an image. The gamma camera doesn't emit any radiation, and it is a box shape that covered by metal and plastic.
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How does the procedure occur?

A regular x-ray happens, but a photo is made by the x-rays being emitted through the patient's body. Nuclear medicine also use a radioactive item, called a radiopharmaceutical which is either inhaled, injected or swallowed by the patient. When inhaled the patient should feel as if they are breathing normal air. When injected by a needle there should not be much pain, besides the needle entering the body. When the radioactive item is swallowed it does not taste like anything. It may take several days for the procedure to progress where the radioactive material travels to the organ or area being treated accumulates. The radioactive material then gives off gamma rays which are then scanned and turned into an image. From then that area is either treated, identified or evaluated.

The experience

Besides the injections there should be no pain inflicted to the body , and there is not usually discomfort or side effects. When swallowed the radioactive material has no taste. The radioactive material should feel like regular air being inhaled if inhaled. The only possible discomfort is being in one position for longer periods of time.
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Works cited

Goldman, Serge, Prof. "Nuclear Medicine and You." How Does It Feel ? The Answers to Your Questions on What a Nuclear Medicine Examination Feels like. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <>.

"Nuclear Medicine, General." Nuclear Medicine, General. 12 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <>.

"Nuclear Medicine." The Lancet. 21 Aug. 1999. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <>.

"NUCLEAR MEDICINE." Sunset Radiology. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <>.

"Nuclear Medicine." Phoenix Technology Corporation RSS. 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <>.

"PENRAD Imaging : Colorado Springs Radiologists : Diagnostic Imaging Colorado." Bino-Pac. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <>.