What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the division of medicine that uses radioisotopes.  This can be used for diagnosis, such as a heart scan, or treatment, such as the treatment of certain tumors. This has been a huge advance in medicine and has really helped in the diagnosis of certain diseases. Concern about radiation exposure has been expressed in the past, but this exposure is extremely minimal and not of health concern.
 Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine
Nuclear Medcine uses radioactive markers in the study and treatment of our bodies.
Imaging studies, such as scans (Gamma and PET-positron), use nuclear 'tagging' isotopes to look inside the body. These 'tiny' doses emit radiation -gamma type- for example and the scan follows the 'marker' around your body. Given intravenously (IV) most often, it allows inspection of a specific body part or specific bodily functions. It may be given and a time delays allows it to travel to area being studied ex. bone takes 4 hours for the 'marker' to gain access. These nuclear markers travel to area to be scanned and their path, uptake into tissue is followed by computer images. No worries, the isotope is excreted in the urine. 

Therapies, commonly for cancer use higher doses of radioactive isotopes to kill cells. Examples include: 'seeds' for prostate cancer and for thyroid cancer.  PET scans use tagged radio-nucleotides that send out (emitting) positrons as energy that can go to rapidly growing cancer cells.  

Continue Learning about Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic Procedures

Allergy tests, echocardiograms, biopsies, semen analysis and spinal taps are just a few of the medical diagnostic procedures that are performed on patients diagnose diseases and conditions. These classification procedures do not i...

nvolve x-ray imaging or a surgical procedure, but, involve taking measurements and samples of fluids, tissues and cells. Learn more about diagnostic procedures from our experts.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.