Nuclear medicine is a specialized branch of radiology. Its focus is on using small amounts of radioactive materials to diagnose, manage, or treat disease. Nuclear medicine uses contrast agents and X-rays to depict how organs function and detect structural abnormalities. It is frequently used to diagnose early stages of disease, such as certain types of cancer, which can lead to earlier effective treatment.
Common diagnostic scans include:
• Renal scans- Examines kidneys and related blood flow
• Thyroid scans- Assesses thyroid function
• Bone scans- Checks for bone disease, tumors, bone degeneration
• Gallium scans- Checks for infection, disease, tumors, abscesses
• Heart scans- Determines extent of damage after a heart attack, evaluates blood flow and heart function
• Brain scans- Evaluates brain tissue and blood flow
• Breast scans-Used with mammograms to identify cancer
Procedure and Preparation
The procedure and preparation for a nuclear medicine scan depends on the type of scan. You will receive specific preparation instructions when you make your appointment. Common preparation instructions include food or vitamin restrictions prior to the test.
The procedures consist of receiving a tracer, the radioactive substance, prior to when the images are taken. The time it takes to complete the process varies by the type of scan. Overall, nuclear medicine is safe and painless.
After the images are taken, they are interpreted by your radiologist. The radiologist or your doctor will discuss your results with you.