Department Of Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine’s applications come under two pivotal stages of treatment - diagnosis and therapy. At the diagnosis stage, radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals are ingested by the patient either orally or intravenously.

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Department Overview

The landscape of modern medicine is always evolving. Nuclear medicine is the link to the next generation of medical diagnostics. It is a subset of radiology and is often called endoradiology. The reason for this nomenclature is that the source of the detected radiation is from within the body. Nuclear medicine is essentially an imaging technique that utilizes principles from various disciplines. Its implementation is drawn from the fields of computer technology, physics, chemistry and mathematics. Being a contemporary form of radiology, nuclear medicine is an integral part of the detection and treatment of various diseases especially cancer.

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine’s applications come under two pivotal stages of treatment – diagnosis and therapy. At the diagnosis stage, radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals are ingested by the patient either orally or intravenously. These nuclear materials emit gamma rays which are detected with the help of specialized equipment known as gamma cameras. The images generated by the gamma cameras can help determine if there are any perceptible changes in organ function. In traditional imaging techniques such as X-rays, the radioactive waves are emitted from the machine. While in nuclear medicine, radiopharmaceuticals emit radioactive waves.

The procedure for diagnosis using nuclear medicine requires expert handling. Dr. Rela’s Institute & Medical Center’s team of radiochemists and nuclear medicine physicians will ensure that the process happens without a hitch. We ensure that your health and comfort are not compromised during the process. Our pieces of equipment are updated in line with the latest innovations in the field.

A concern that most people express with regards to nuclear medicine is the potential harm of radiopharmaceutical. They are also known as a radionuclide or a radioactive tracer. Small amounts of these radioactive materials are usually injected into the patient before the scan. By assessing the radiopharmaceutical’s behaviour with the help of a nuclear scan, our medical professionals can diagnose conditions like cyst, hematoma, tumour, infection and organ enlargement.

A nuclear medicine scan is carried out in 3 stages. The first step is the administration of the radioactive tracer. Before administration, a series of tests are done to ensure the prevention of adverse effects of the medicine. This is followed by the intake of medicines to prevent nausea and to protect the kidneys. The next step is image generation using types of equipment such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan. The final step is the interpretation of the results by a specialist.

In terms of the therapeutic potential of nuclear medicine, radioactive material in the administered drug can recognize tumours. It possesses the ability to destroy them right at their origin.

Why is Nuclear Medicine in the limelight?

Nuclear medicine’s popularity has witnessed a drastic rise in this decade. Although the date of the idea’s inception is difficult to determine, owing to its cross-disciplinary background, the principle has been around since the mid-1900s. John Lawrence is considered as the ‘Father of Nuclear Medicine’ as he was the first physician to administer radioactive medicine as a treatment. Dr. Lawrence used phosphorus-32 for the treatment of leukaemia paving the way for nuclear medicine’s use in the treatment of cancers.

Specially designed radiopharmaceuticals were first used in the 1980s. One of the first applications involved creating detailed images of the heart. This technique was spurred on by the simultaneous development of SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) at the time and allowed medical professionals to develop three-dimensional images of the heart. The application was further extended to other organs of the body. This paved way for numerous specializations within the field.

Recent innovations in imaging technology have renewed interest in using nuclear medicine. Coupled with higher safety standards and a more detailed understanding of the technology, nuclear medicine has attained a vital part in modern medicine. Moreover, its growing popularity can be attributed to the high efficacy of radiopharmaceuticals in suppressing tumours and other types of cancers.

Applications of Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine finds applications in diagnosis as well as treatment. As a diagnostic tool, it is employed in the following areas:

Assess Heart health

Nuclear medicine is extensively used in cardiology to assess the heart’s condition. When presented with the symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath or an abnormal cardiogram, the physician usually directs the patient to this form of an assessment. Once the exam is completed, the technician will be able to draw up images of the blood flow distribution and visualize the functioning of the heart.

Evaluate respiratory function

Popularly known as a lung scan, nuclear medicine is employed for two particular reasons. The ventilation scan examines the air movement in the lungs. While the perfusion scan examines the blood flow in the lungs. The purpose of a nuclear lung scan is to detect the formation of a blood clot or embolism in the lungs.

Detect Bone damage

In a bone scan, a radioactive tracer is injected and an image is generated using contrast. Regions undergoing tissue repair typically take up more of the trace and are thus highlighted in the image. This can help pinpoint the location of an abnormality like a fracture. It can also be used in the evaluation of prosthetic joints to gauge their status.

Identify Brain abnormalities

Nuclear medicine is useful for the detection of diseases pertaining to the brain, particularly neuro-degenerative conditions. An intravenous injection is administered with trace amounts of radioactive material. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or memory loss can be diagnosed using this method.

Locate complications post-surgery

Internal surgery is a complex process. There are possibilities of complications occurring in and around the operated region. Nuclear medicine scans to aid in locating such complications following the surgery allowing for immediate corrective treatment.

Find Infection source

The white blood cells (WBCs) in the body are tagged with a radioactive substance and can be used to find the site of infection. Unlike other scans, this is a one day process. The day before the imaging is done, the technician will draw your blood and disperse radiopharmaceuticals in it. The blood is then injected back into the body and allowed to disperse. The following day, scanning is done and the images are generated.

Determine Thyroid function

Thyroid scans using nuclear medicine is done to determine thyroid health and detect any malignant growths. Radioactive iodine is often the tracer of choice. Thyroid and thyroid cancers are disposed to naturally absorb iodine thus allowing for better imaging. The gamma camera then evaluates the processing of the radioisotope by the thyroid. This interaction is converted to an image and assessed by a medical professional.

Benefits of Nuclear Medicine

Innovations in medical science have pushed nuclear medicine to the forefront. This is in large due to the numerous benefits it presents over the other conventional technologies. These include:

Nuclear medicine is a convenient diagnostic tool as the examination is non-intrusive and causes practically no discomfort to the patient.

Diagnostic scans using nuclear medicine are relatively inexpensive and do not compromise the integrity of the results.

Scans generated from nuclear medicine often provide more detailed and pertinent diagnostic information than exploratory surgery.

Nuclear medicine possesses minimal risk as opposed to exploratory surgery which is susceptible to complications.

Nuclear imaging boasts of heightened sensitivity to abnormalities in organs compared to other imaging techniques. Hence, making it a more reliable tool.

This technique is also able to determine disruptions in organ functionality before symptoms manifest, thereby allowing early diagnosis.

PET scan used along with nuclear medicine can identify whether a tumour is malignant or benign. This aids in formulating the appropriate treatment and recovery regimen.


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