Nuclear medicine procedures are a common and safe way to diagnose many different diseases in adults and children. Nuclear procedures can help your doctor find cancer, check the health of your body’s organs and even provide an image of tiny bone fractures. The doctors and technicians who oversee and perform nuclear medicine scans are specially trained.
What is nuclear medicine?
Nuclear medicine is a safe medical specialty that uses very small amounts of radioactive materials to diagnose medical problems and diseases. Patients are given a small amount of radioactive material orally or through an injection. The test or scan provides images of the body’s organs and other areas that cannot be seen well with a standard X-ray. A radiologist then reads, or interprets, the findings.
These scans include, but are not limited to:
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
- Single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scans
- Bone scans
- Gallbladder scan
- Kidney scan
- Lung scan
- Liver and spleen scan
- Salivary gland scan
- Testicular scan
Conditions that nuclear medicine helps diagnose
Nuclear medicine can diagnose, find infections and diseases, or determine which treatment the patient may need. Examples include:
- Heart disease
- Brain disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Lung disorders
- Bone disorders
- Kidney and thyroid disorders
Nuclear medicine risks
Nuclear medicine is very safe. The amount of radioactive material is small and does not stay in the body for very long. Your doctor will always be sure to keep radiation exposure as low as possible. It is a good idea to drink plenty of water after a scan to help remove the radioactive material from your body. Women should always tell their doctor first if they are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your doctor can determine if nuclear medicine is right for you.