Nuclear medicine technologies specialize in the imaging of an organ’s metabolic functions. This facilitates diagnosis of certain diseases, as well as identifying various medical conditions.
During nuclear medicine procedures, an intravenous catheter is inserted into the arm or hand vein, through which a radioactive tracer is injected. A gamma camera photographs the organ and the resulting film shows normal absorption or dark and light spots, relative to how the organ is functioning.
Nuclear Medicine Can Localize Abnormalities
Nuclear medicine imaging can localize and evaluate a wide range of abnormalities and conditions, including:
- Evaluate kidney function
- Visualize blood flow to the heart
- Scan lungs for respiratory and blood flow problems
- Identify inflammation in the gallbladder
- Evaluate bones for fractures and infections
- Determine whether cancer is present or has spread in certain parts of the body
- Measure thyroid function
- Investigate abnormalities in the brain, such as seizures or memory loss
Advance Nuclear Medicine Imaging
A bone scan is used to evaluate damage to the bones or to monitor conditions that affect the bones, such as trauma and infection. Bone scans can often detect problems well in advance of regular X-ray scans.
In a bone scan, a radioactive tracer is injected into the arm. The tracer travels through the bloodstream and into the bones. A special camera takes pictures to show cell activity and function in the bones. Areas that absorb little or no amount of tracer appear as dark or “cold” spots, which might indicate a lack of blood supply to the bone or the presence of certain types of cancer. Areas of rapid bone growth absorb increased amounts of the tracer and show up as bright spots in the pictures, possibly indicating the presence of a tumor, a fracture or an infection.
The radioactivity of the tracer used in a bone scan is very low, and there are no side effects. The scan takes approximately one hour to complete.
Myocardial Perfusion Scan
A Myocardial Perfusion Scan is used to evaluate coronary artery disease, which is a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the heart muscle. As this disease progresses, the heart may not receive enough oxygen at times, especially when it's under stress. This may result in a chest pain called angina.
Myocardial perfusion stress tests consist of a rest and exercise portion. Images of the heart at rest are captured first by injecting a tracer and then waiting about 30 minutes to take the first set of images.
Next, a drug is injected that simulates the effects of exercise. Once the heart reaches a certain level, a second tracer is administered, and after allowing 15 to 30 minutes for circulation, a second set of images is captured. The entire test can take up to three hours to complete.