If your doctor has ordered a nuclear medicine test for you, you may be saying to yourself, “What is a nuclear medicine test anyway?” It almost sounds like something ominous and scary, and understandably so. The most common connotation of nuclear is often in reference to scary missiles or potentially dangerous power plants. Nuclear can actually reference a relation to an atom, or to the nucleus of a cell.
Most people have never heard of nuclear medicine, but it happens to be a very valuable piece to the puzzle when trying to determine a diagnosis and/or function of a specific organ. Nuclear medicine technology has been used for more than 60 years, longer than CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and ultrasound. The tests that are performed are very safe, despite the daunting name, with 18 million procedures performed every year.
What Exactly is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear medicine is a part of the radiology department. It is an imaging technique that is primarily used to diagnose conditions such as heart disease, bone pain and disorders, kidney disease, and thyroid disorders. Many times, a nuclear medicine procedure is performed in breast and prostate cancer patients to stage the progression of the cancer. Nuclear medicine is highly sensitive and can often identify diseases and abnormalities before other testing methods, which allows for earlier treatments and better prognoses.
How Does Nuclear Medicine Work?
Nuclear medicine uses a specially designed radiopharmaceutical – a radioisotope attached to a specific pharmaceutical – that is sent specifically to the patient’s area of concern. Some procedures use a radiopharmaceutical (also called a tracer) that is swallowed or inhaled. The tracer emits a form of radiation known as a gamma ray, a very low energy form of radiation that is not harmful or damaging to the body. Imaging is then done with a specially designed scanner, or gamma camera, that detects the tracer and produces an image that can be read by a trained radiologist.
What Will I Feel? Does It Hurt?
Almost all of the nuclear medicine procedures do not have any effect on you. Some treatments for hyperthyroidism can have some slight effects on the patient the next few days after your test. This should be discussed with your doctor if you are scheduled for a thyroid treatment. If you are a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, you should consult with your doctor before having a nuclear medicine procedure.
During imaging, the gamma camera will either scan the entire body or stay stationary over an area of the body. Some of the scans require that you raise your arms up over your head and to lie still, but the scanning process is very comfortable and quiet.
Why Should I Choose Independent Imaging for Nuclear Medicine?
Independent Imaging has been in the business of offering stat-of-the-art technology and imaging equipment since the 1980s. We are accredited by the American College of Radiology, which speaks to our high standards of practice. Our doctors and radiologist are board certified and fellowship trained, and continue to educate themselves on the newest and most advanced technology in the field of radiology.
Please call our main office number today at (561) 795-5558 for nuclear medicine in Wellington, Belle Glade, Lake Worth, or Royal Palm Beach, Florida. We also offer the convenience of online appointment scheduling.