Commonwealth Radiology Associates

Nuclear Medicine

What Are Nuclear Medicine Scans?

Nuclear medicine imaging uses small amounts of radioactive materials, called radiotracers, that are typically injected into the bloodstream, inhaled or swallowed. The radiotracer travels through the area being examined and gives off energy in the form of gamma rays which are detected by a special camera and a computer to create images of the inside of your body. Nuclear medicine imaging provides unique information that often cannot be obtained using other imaging procedures and offers the potential to identify disease in its earliest stages.

When is Nuclear Medicine Used?

Nuclear Medicine imaging is noninvasive, safe and painless. The technique is used to diagnose and manage the treatment of cancer, heart disease, brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, gastrointestinal disorders, lung disorders, bone disorders, kidney and thyroid disorders.

Because of the ability to pinpoint molecular activity within the body, nuclear medicine imaging offers the potential to identify disease in its earliest stages as well as a patient’s immediate response to therapeutic interventions.

Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography (PET/CT)

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) uses small amounts of radioactive materials called radiotracers, a special camera and a computer to help evaluate organ and tissue functions. A PET scan measures important body functions, such as blood flow, oxygen use, and sugar (glucose) metabolism, to help doctors evaluate how well organs and tissues are functioning. By identifying body changes at the cellular level, PET may detect the early onset of disease before it is evident on other imaging tests.

Almost all PET scans are performed on instruments that are combined PET and Computed Tomography (CT) scanners. These scans provide images that pinpoint the anatomic location of abnormal metabolic activity within the body. The combined scans have been shown to provide more accurate diagnoses than the two scans performed separately.

Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam, the radiotracer is either injected into the body, swallowed or inhaled as a gas and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of the body being examined. Radioactive emissions from the radiotracer are detected by a special camera or imaging device that produces pictures and provides molecular information.

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