Diagnostic nuclear medicine is a specialized branch of medical imaging that uses radioactive substances to diagnose a variety of disease processes. It differs from other imaging specialties in that nuclear imaging primarily shows the presence of disease or injury based on the function of an organ or body part, as opposed to x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, etc., which primarily show the structure of organs and body parts.
Nuclear medicine testing uses pharmaceuticals (drugs) attached to small quantities of radioactive materials (radioisotopes) to form radiopharmaceuticals. The material is typically injected into the vein of the patient’s arm and feels very similar to having blood taken. Once administered, the injected material localizes in the area of interest and emits low-level radiation for a short period of time. This radiation is then detected using a special camera, known as a gamma camera.
It is very rare to experience any side effects from the injection. The amount of radioactive material injected for testing is minimal and is considered to be safe. Nuclear medicine testing has been in use for over 6 decades and the benefits of achieving early and accurate diagnoses far outweigh any possible risk associated with the radiation.
MMI’s nuclear medicine department performs over 4 000 nuclear medicine procedures per year.
Common nuclear medicine procedures performed at MMI include bone scans, cardiac perfusion imaging, gastric emptying studies and left ventricle ejection fraction (LVEF) studies. The imaging is straightforward and painless and involves the patient lying on an examination table with the camera close to his or her body.
For more information, please refer to the list of nuclear medicine FAQs.