Nuclear medicine imaging is used to locate areas of altered function within a patient's organs or bones.
Unlike X-ray imaging, in which radiation exits a machine and passes through the patient's body, nuclear medicine imaging introduces very small amounts of short-lived, low-energy radioactive materials to highlight affected areas of the body. These materials, called radioactive isotopes, accumulate in one or more organs of interest, and are then detected by special cameras called gamma cameras.
The gamma camera then scans the organ or organs of interest, gathering information on the radiation emitted by the isotopes in those structures. Images are then created for evaluation of the organs or organs involved. The areas most commonly scanned in this manner are the lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys, thyroid and bone. Many non-invasive heart studies are performed by using nuclear medicine radioisotopes.
These studies can locate areas of altered function in organs or bones. These scans can show metabolic changes caused by small tumors, fine fractures, or degenerative diseases before they can be detected on an X-ray. There are many nuclear medicine examinations, including:
- Bone imaging
- Brain imaging
- Cardiac imaging
- DEXA scans (bone densitometry)
- Gastrointestinal imaging
- Infection imaging
- Kidney imaging
- Lymphoscintigraphy (lung imaging)
- Sentinel node mapping
- PET (Positron emission tomography)
- Red blood cell volume analysis
- SPECT (Single photon emission computed tomography)
- Thyroid exams (diagnostic and therapeutic)
- Tumor localization and therapy