Nuclear medicine is a form of specialty medicine that uses radioactive tracers to evaluate bodily functions and to diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions. Nuclear scans produce images of the body’s anatomy that cannot be obtained as clearly or fully with other imaging techniques.
Nuclear medicine tests use a very small amount of radioactive tracer (radionuclide or radioisotope) which is specific for the organ or tissue to be scanned.
- The tracer is injected into a vein by a technologist.
- The gamma rays emitted by the tracer are detected by a special camera that is positioned near the organ or tissues being imaged.
- Images may be taken during the injection, immediately after the injection, or following a delayed period to allow the tracer to circulate to the desired area.
Although the patient is exposed to radiation during the procedure, the test is considered safe because the amount of radiation used is comparable to that of a routine X-ray. The tracer only remains in the body for a short period of time before being naturally eliminated in the urine or stool.
Scanning Tests that Use Nuclear Medicine
There are numerous types of scans that employ nuclear medicine. Some of the most commonly used ones are the following:
Cardiac Stress Test
A cardiac stress test is carried out to determine the health of the heart, and the addition of nuclear medicine is used to identify any areas of reduced blood flow. It measures the heart’s ability to respond to external stress, but in a controlled clinical environment.
MUGA Scan (Heart Ventricles)
The MUGA (multigated acquisition) scan evaluates the function of the heart and measures how well the heart pumps blood with each heartbeat. The technology is called radionuclide angiography, and it can show if there are any abnormalities in the ventricles or in the movement of the blood as it passes through the heart.
HIDA Scan (Liver, Gallbladder, Bile Ducts)
A HIDA (hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid) scan is used to view the liver, small intestine, gallbladder, and bile ducts. It can be used to follow the path of bile from the liver to the small intestine, assess the function of the liver when it excretes bile, and measure the rate at which bile is produced from the gallbladder. It can also be used to find the cause of abdominal pain, and to assess the result of a liver transplant.
A thyroid scan is conducted to determine how well the thyroid gland (which controls metabolism) is functioning, and it can be used to assess the size, shape, and position of the gland. This type of scan may be recommended when there are symptoms of an overactive thyroid.
A parathyroid scan is used to determine the overall health and function of the parathyroid glands, which are located behind the thyroid. The parathyroid glands control calcium levels throughout the body, including in the blood and bones. They continuously regulate calcium uptake in the body to ensure that the nervous and muscular systems can function properly.
A renal scan assesses how well your kidneys are functioning. This scan may be performed in order to check whether you have a suspected kidney obstruction or impaired function. It can also be used prior to a kidney transplant to assess the condition of the kidney that will be transplanted.
3-Phase Bone Scan
A 3-phase bone scan is used to diagnose abnormal areas within the bones or joints, such as a fracture, bone pain, infection, or bone disease, which cannot be seen successfully with a standard X-ray. The scan is carried out in phases to allow the tracer to circulate fully through the bone.
Nuclear Medicine in Palm Beach County
At Independent Imaging, we offer state-of-the-art nuclear imaging scans at our accredited facilities. We specialize in diagnostic and interventional radiology, and we have four convenient locations across Palm Beach County.