235 North Pearl Street, Brockton, MA 02301 508-427-3000
Nuclear medicine is the use of radioactive materials to help diagnose and treat a wide variety of diseases and disorders. With the use of special equipment and procedures, certain organ functions can be studied to determine the extent of certain diseases.
It helps to diagnose disease earlier and make treatment more effective. Nuclear imaging shows how cells are functioning, as opposed to conventional diagnostic imaging procedures, which show anatomical pictures of the body.
The patient is given a radioactive tracer which is injected into the blood stream, swallowed or inhaled. Different tracers go to different organs. The tracers travel through the body to the organ of interest giving off gamma rays, which are invisible. Scanners are used to detect and record on computer images of the organ. The results are then interpreted by a doctor that specializes in nuclear imaging, a radiologist or a cardiologist.
In nuclear medicine procedures, the amount of tracer used is extremely small, so radiation exposure is minimal. The amount of radiation in most nuclear medicine procedures is no more than that received during an X-ray. Radiopharmaceuticals are prepared with great care, and they are tested carefully and approved by the FDA prior to use. Nuclear medicine has been used for more than fifty years, and these procedures are free of known side effects. The benefit of early and accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risks from exposure to this small amount of radioactive material.