Nuclear Medicine is a subspecialty within the department of radiology similar to X-ray, Ultrasound, CT or MRI. General nuclear medicine utilizes a small amount of radioactive materials to diagnose or treat a variety of abnormalities to the body as well as diseases. A specific radiopharmaceutical, called radiotracer, is designed to go to specific organ systems. Depending on what type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the radioactive tracer is either inhaled as a gas, injected into the vein or ingested with food or drink. Once in the body the radioactive tracer gives off energy in the form of gamma rays. This energy is detected by equipment called a gamma camera or an uptake probe. This specialized equipment works in conjunction with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed in your body as well as detect how the body systems are functioning.
The most common uses for nuclear medicine exams include evaluation of kidney and thyroid function, visualization of heart blood flow and function, blood flow and respiration abnormalities of the lungs, gallbladder diseases, boney pathology (fractures, infections, arthritis, and tumors), brain abnormalities, and localization of lymph nodes prior to surgery.