What Is Nuclear Medicine and How Does It Work?

Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty where small amounts of radioactive material are used to diagnose diseases. It is non-invasive, cost-effective and can provide details about the functioning of an organ as well as the viability of the organ structure. It allows for the diagnosis of certain medical conditions and diseases much earlier than other techniques. Nuclear medicine is a great tool for the early detection, treatment and prevention of brain tumors, stroke evaluation, blood cell disorders, breast cancer, heart disease, kidney function and thyroid function.

How Does Nuclear Medicine Work?

Nuclear medicine works by introducing a low-level radioactive chemical called a radiotracer into the body. The radiotracer travels through the area being examined and emits a gamma ray signal that is picked up and read by a gamma camera. “Hot spots” show a larger accumulation of radiotracer which indicates increased activity. “Cold spots” demonstrate reduced activity.

Nuclear medicine is capable of providing information that other imaging techniques may miss. Nuclear medicine is safe because the level of radiation involved in the procedure is typically much lower than the radiation received from a conventional X-ray. Nuclear medicine procedures are painless and have no side effects.

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