Why is it called nuclear medicine?
Nuclear medicine refers to a medicine (a pharmaceutical) attached to a small quantity of a radioactive material (a radioisotope). This combination is called a radiopharmaceutical.
There are many different radiopharmaceuticals used to study different parts of the body. The one chosen for your study will depend on your medical condition.
How do radiopharmaceuticals work?
Radiopharmaceuticals are given by injection, swallowing or inhalation. The amount given is very small.
The pharmaceutical part is designed to go to a specific place in the body where there could be disease or an abnormality.
The radioactive part emits radiation - known as gamma rays (similar to X-rays) - which is then detected using a special camera called a gamma camera. This type of camera lets the radiologist see what is happening inside your body.
Is the radioactivity harmful?
The amount of radiation in a typical procedure is comparable to that received during a diagnostic X-ray, and the amount received in a typical treatment procedure is kept within safe limits.
How is nuclear medicine different from an X-ray, a CT scan, an ultrasound or an MRI?
Nuclear medicine can detect radiation coming from inside a patient's body. It determines the cause of a medical problem based on organ function rather structure.