Being nervous, or even afraid, is a perfectly normal stress response when faced with the unknown. If, for instance, you have ever been out on a dark night, armed with nothing but a flashlight and a you hear a cat knocking over a trash can, the noise is probably going to make you feel jumpy – even though you are really perfectly okay. Nuclear imaging is a lot like that. It may feel scary, but you really shouldn’t be afraid, because nuclear imaging procedures are quite safe, effective, and closely monitored for your protection. Things that are unknown can be quite scary, so being adequately informed is often the best fight against such fears.
What is Nuclear Imaging?
Nuclear Imaging is a subspecialty of nuclear medicine, which uses tiny amounts of specific kinds of radioactive materials to diagnose and treat certain types of illness. The radioactive materials are carefully chosen to be effective and safe to use. Radioactive isotopes, such as 99m Tc, which has a half-life of 6 hours to enhance certain kinds of imaging scans, allow for superior internal imaging. Radioactive half-life may sound scary, but it simply means the amount of time it takes for one half of the radioactive material to be eliminated.
A half-life of six hours means that the entire amount is completely gone in 12 hours. This makes it last long enough to evaluate how an organ or group of organs and tissues are functioning, but is removed fast enough to minimize risks. Besides which, the tiny amount used makes it unlikely to cause any later issues. In addition, the procedures are strictly limited to safe dosage amounts.
In a nuclear imaging procedure, minuscule amounts of radioactive isotopes are used to provide critical visual information. The radioactive material gives off a signal that can be traced when combined with powerful scanners and sophisticated medical imaging systems. Known as radiopharmaceuticals, these drugs contain radioisotopes that can be inhaled, swallowed as a pill, administered by IV, or placed in a body cavity where they will begin travel to various parts of the body.
When combined with sophisticated tests such as a computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imagining (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), the highly specialized dyes containing radioactive tracers allow for exceptional imaging of internal body structures.
By tracking the exact movements and concentration of radio isotopes accumulating in the organs being studied, doctors can gain an inside view of the way the body is actually functioning. This allows them to better diagnose, evaluate, and treat medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, brain disorders and other conditions earlier and more precisely than they would otherwise be able to do.
If you are concerned about the safety of nuclear medicine, rest assured the materials are safe to use and all procedures are carefully monitored. If you need exceptional care from one of our board-certified radiologists in the Wellington, Belle Glade, Lake Worth or Royal Palm Beach areas, please call (561) 795-5558, or request an appointment online today. We are here to help.