What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear Medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities within the body.

Nuclear Medicine imaging procedures are noninvasive and usually painless medical tests that help physicians diagnose medical conditions.  These imaging scans use radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers. Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the radiotracer is either injected into a vein, swallowed or inhaled as a gas and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of your body being examined, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays.  This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera.  These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures, offering details on both the structure and function of organs and tissues.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

Physicians use radionuclide imaging procedures to visualize the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone or system of the body.

Nuclear medicine imaging scans are performed to:
  • analyze kidney function
  • visualize heart blood flow and function (such as a myocardial perfusion scan)
  • evaluate bones for fractures, infection, arthritis and tumours
  • determine the presence or spread of cancer in various parts of the body
  • identify bleeding into the bowel
  • locate the presence of infection
Exam preparation instructions

Click here for exam preparation instructions for nuclear medicine procedures.
Click here for exam preparation instructions for cardiac studies procedures.

For more patient information regarding Nuclear Medicine please refer to http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=gennuclear