Common Nuclear Medicine Imaging Techniques

Pampaloni of Nuclear Medicine – UCSF Medical

Nuclear medicine physicians use radionuclide imaging to visualize the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone or system within the body.


  • evaluate bones for fractures, infection and arthritis
  • evaluate for metastatic bone disease
  • evaluate painful prosthetic joints
  • evaluate bone tumors
  • identify sites for biopsy


  • investigate abnormalities in the brain, such as seizures, memory loss and abnormalities in blood flow
  • detect the early onset of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer disease
  • plan surgery and localize seizure foci
  • evaluate for abnormalities in a chemical in the brain involved in controlling movement in patients with suspected Parkinson's disease
  • evaluation of brain tumor recurrence, surgical or radiation planning or localization for biopsy


  • evaluate for respiratory and blood flow problems
  • assess differential lung function for lung reduction or transplant surgery
  • detect lung transplant rejection

Pediatric Nuclear Medicine

  • investigate abnormalities in the esophagus, kidneys and intestines
  • evaluate the openness of ventricular shunts in the brain
  • assess congenital heart disease for shunts and pulmonary blood flow

Nuclear Medicine Exam and Therapies

  • Radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy used to evaluate the endocrine system to treat some causes of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland, for example, Graves' disease) and thyroid cancer
  • Radioactive antibodies used to treat certain forms of lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system)
  • Radioactive materials used to treat painful tumor metastases to the bones

Other Systems

  • identify inflammation or abnormal function of the gallbladder
  • identify bleeding into the bowel
  • assess post-operative complications of gallbladder surgery
  • evaluate lymphedema
  • evaluate fever of unknown origin
  • locate the presence of infection
  • measure thyroid function to detect an overactive or underactive thyroid gland.
  • help diagnose hyperthyroidism.
  • evaluate for hyperparathyroidism
  • evaluate the rate of stomach emptying
  • evaluate spinal fluid flow and potential spinal fluid leaks
  • localize sentinel lymph nodes before surgery in patients with breast cancer or skin and soft tissue tumors.