Nuclear Medicine is the practice of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material (referred to as radiopharmaceuticals) during procedures to diagnose, determine the severity and to treat a variety of diseases by providing pictures of the inside of a body’s cellular level. These tests are useful in helping physicians diagnose and detect many different types of cancers, endocrine, gastrointestinal, heart disease, neurological and other maladies inside the body during their early stages.
Nuclear medicine scans are considered a noninvasive procedure and outside of intravenous injections, the tests themselves are relatively painless and usually conducted by Nuclear Medicine Technologists. Nuclear medicine has been called “radiology done inside out” or “endoradiology” because the process records the radiation that emits internally from within the body, compared to the radiation that is created from external sources such as X-rays.
In cases of performing nuclear medicine imaging, radiopharmaceuticals are given internally and presented in an intravenous format or inhaled as gas. Once in place, special imaging devices referred to as gamma cameras (external detectors) take the radiation emitted by the radiopharmaceuticals and use them to create images and provide molecular information. This is similar in practice to a diagnostic X-ray, where the external radiation passes through the body to create its image.