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Nuclear medicine is a branch of medice and medical imaging that uses radioactive isotopes (radionuclides) in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Nuclear medicine thus relies on the process of radioactive decay. Molecular imaging may employ nuclear medical techniques when it uses radioisotopes to produce images that reflect biological processes that take place at the cellular and sub cellular level.

Nuclear medicine procedures use pharmaceuticals that have been labeled with radionuclides (radiopharmaceuticals). In diagnosis, radioactive substances are administered to patients and the radiation emitted is detected.


The dose to the patient varies depending on the test, but the range is similar to x-rays and CT scans. Children receive a lower amount of radiation that is based on their weight. Usually, no special precautions need to be taken after the study and normal activity can be resumed immediately. 

The diagnostic tests involve the formation of an image using a gamma camera or or other gamma detection devices in the techniques of single photon emission tomography SPECT and positron emission tomography. Imaging may also be referred to as radionuclide imaging or nuclear scintigraphy. 

Nuclear medicinal tests differ from most other imaging modalities in that diagnostic tests primarily show the physiological function of the system being investigated as opposed to traditional anatomical imaging such as CT or MRI. .

Frequently Ordered Nuclear Scans


Bone Scans: Used for the early detection of fractures, tumors, infection and arthritis.


Cardiac Scans: The Muga Scan is used to evaluate the function of the heart as a pump. Myocardial perfusion is used to evaluate the coronary blood flow to the heart muscle.


Gallium Scan:  Detects soft tissue and skeletal infections and tumors.


Hepatobiliary Scan: Detects acute cholecystits. May also be used to detect chronic gallbladder abnormalities.


Renal Scan:  Evaluates kidney blood flow, urine formation and urinary obstruction


Thyroid Uptake and Scan:  Evaluates thyroid nodules and how well the thyroid is functioning


Whole Body Scans: Detects remnant of functioning thyroid and thyroid cancer after surgery.

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