Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

Nuclear medicine is a specialized area of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive substances to examine organ function and structure. It can also be used as a therapeutic approach to treat certain diseases.

Nuclear medicine scans provide information about various organ functions by imaging the concentration of specially formulated radioactive chemical compounds in selected parts of the body. These compounds, or radioisotopes, are administered to patients by trained technologists in small amounts in order to evaluate for functional abnormalities in bone, liver, lungs, heart, brain, kidneys and the endocrine system.

Nuclear medicine exams include: ventilation and perfusion (V/Q) scan for showing blood flow and air movement in the lungs; stress perfusion scan for assessing coronary artery blood flow and cardiac muscle damage; bone scan and PET scan for detecting the spread of cancer; liver, spleen, gallbladder, and kidney scans to evaluate organ function; thyroid scan to visualize activity of the thyroid gland; and scans of the gastrointestinal system to identify active bleeding sites.

More information is available about what happens in a nuclear medicine exam, and safety concerns.