Nuclear medicine is a subspecialty within the field of radiology. Generally, radiation to the patient is similar to that resulting from standard x-ray examinations.
The patient is given a small dose of radioactive material, usually intravenously but sometimes orally, that localizes in specific body organ systems. This compound, called a radiopharmaceutical agent or tracer, eventually collects in the organ and gives off energy as gamma rays. The gamma camera detects the rays and works with a computer to produce images and measurements of organs and tissues.
These images allow physicians to conduct diagnostic examinations of body anatomy and organ function. Tumors, infection and other disorders can be detected by evaluating organ function. Specifically, nuclear medicine can be used to:
- Analyze kidney function
- Image blood flow and function of the heart
- Scan lungs for respiratory and blood-flow problems
- Identify blockage of the gallbladder
- Evaluate bones for fracture, infection, arthritis or tumor
- Determine the presence or spread of cancer
- Identify bleeding into the bowel
- Locate the presence of infection
- Measure thyroid function to detect an overactive or underactive thyroid
For more detailed information on this examination, visit RadiologyInfo.