What Is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear medicine is a specialized area of radiology used to help diagnose and treat abnormalities early in the progression of a disease. This imaging captures medical information that would otherwise be unavailable and require expensive diagnostic tests or surgery. Tissues such as intestines, muscles, and blood vessels are difficult to visualize on a standard X-ray. In nuclear medicine, a radioactive tracer is used so the tissue is seen more clearly.
With this tracer, physicians can see, through nuclear imaging, the internal organs and tissues as well as their function. Physicians can evaluate organ and tissue function depending on how much of the radioactive tracer is absorbed.
A very small amount of a radioactive substance is used during the procedure. The radioactive substance, called a radionuclide (radiopharmaceutical or radioactive tracer), is swallowed or injected and absorbed by body tissue. After the radionuclide has been given and collected in the body tissue, radiation will be detected by a special camera.
The amount of radiation in a typical nuclear imaging procedure is within safe limits and is comparable to a diagnostic X-ray.