• Nuclear Medicine

  • Nuclear Medicine St. Catherine Hospital What is Nuclear Medicine?

    Nuclear Medicine is an important tool for diagnosing and treating disease. Nuclear Medicine is the use of Radioactive materials to help diagnose and treat a wide variety of diseases or disorders. Nuclear Medicine provides unique information about your body and your health.

    Why is Nuclear Medicine important?

    Nuclear Medicine helps physicians diagnose diseases early to make the treatment more effective. Nuclear Medicine are widely used to test and treat patients.

    How does Nuclear Medicine work?

    1. The patient is given a radioactive compound called a radiopharmaceutical, which is introduced into the body by injection, swallowing, or inhalation. Different compounds are used to study different parts of the body
    2. The compound travels through the body, continuously giving off gamma rays (invisible radiation)
    3. Special equipment detects the gamma rays and records them as flashes of light. These are used to create pictures or images of the part of the body that is being studied. A computer may help make images easier to interpret
    4. A nuclear medicine physician along with the patient's physician interprets the results. This is to determine if the body part being studied is structured and functioning properly

    Nuclear Medicine procedures are requested by your physician and are carried out by the Nuclear Medicine which includes…

    1. The Radiologist: a specialist with an extensive medical background; training in chemistry, physics, and special expertise in radioactive materials, treatments, tests, equipment etc.
    2. The Technolofist: a highly trained individual who has completed an approved course of study in the theory and practice of nuclear medicine technology. Studies include preparing and positioning patients, administering drugs, operation of equipment, etc.

    Every precaution is taken!

    Exposure to radiation is LOW. Only tiny quantities are used for diagnosis. Exposure to radiation is SHORT. The drugs lose most of the radioactivity in hours or days. Drugs are usually eliminated from the body. Exposure to radiation is CAREFULLY CONTROLLED. Facilities, equipment and materials meet strict safety standards. All personnel are experienced, highly trained, and safety conscious. Some procedures are restricted during pregnancy because a safe dose for the mother may be too high for the fetus. Larger doses are used for treatment purposes.

    Fortunately instruments for measuring radioactivity are at least a million times more sensitive than human tissue. Diagnostic procedures in Nuclear Medicine are done with exceedingly small amounts of radiation. The body as a perfectly natural occurrence accepts the dose give. Nuclear Medicine is one of the safest branches of medicine. The patient is exposed to radiation only once or twice. The reason we take precautions in the lab is to protect technologists and doctors who are exposed many times a day.

    How long does the radioactivity stay?

    Technetium 99m (for example) reaches half of its original amount in six hours. No matter how much we start with, six hours later only half of the original amount is left. Again, six hours later half of the half is left. Repeating the six hour time frame until total activity is zero. That is why six hours is called the half-life of Technetium 99m. Ask the members of the Nuclear Medicine team if you have any fears, doubts, or worries.

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