What is Nuclear Medicine?
In nuclear medicine, the unique characteristics of chemicals called radiopharmaceuticals* are used for diagnosis, treatment, and research in medicine. Typically, a small amount of a radiopharmaceutical is introduced into the body by injection, ingestion, or inhalation. The radiopharmaceutical is attracted to particular organs, bones, or other tissues. From different locations within the body, the radioisotope releases small amounts of energy (radiation) that can be detected outside the body by special “cameras.” These cameras record the movement and localization of radiopharmaceuticals in the body. The resulting 2- and 3-dimensional images document the structure and function (metabolic, physiologic, and pathologic) of the tissue or organ of interest. Physicians examine these images to evaluate and diagnose a large number of diseases.
* Radiopharmaceuticals are molecules or chemicals that are attached to a small amount of radioactive isotope that once administered to the patient are able to specifically localize within organs and/or organ systems in health and disease.