About the field of

nuclear medicine

Nuclear medicine specialists are experts in all aspects of diagnostic and therapeutic nuclear medicine services.

Molecular imaging is a type of medical imaging that provides detailed pictures of what is happening inside the body at the molecular and cellular level. Where other diagnostic imaging procedures - such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) and ultrasound - offer pictures of physical structure, molecular imaging allows physicians to see how the body is functioning and to measure its chemical and biological processes.

Molecular imaging includes the field of nuclear medicine, which uses tiny amounts of radioactive materials (radiopharmaceuticals) to diagnose and treat disease. In nuclear medicine imaging, the radiopharmaceuticals are detected by special types of cameras that work with computers to provide very precise pictures of the area of the body being imaged. Nuclear medicine can also be used to treat certain types of cancer and other diseases.

Nuclear Physicians are qualified to interpret a broad range of diagnostic studies, including single-photon and positron-emitter radiopharmaceutical distributions obtained with planar and tomographic techniques and, when appropriate, hybrid tomographic data including co-registered anatomic and radiotracer (PET or SPECT) images. Nuclear Med's patients need to be referred by a treating professional (Oncologist, Cardiologist, Neurologist, Orthopedic Surgeon or other Physician, etc.)

Nuclear Med offers unique insights into the human body. Molecular imaging is a type of medical imaging that provides detailed pictures of what is happening inside the body at the molecular and cellular level.

Molecular imaging offers unique insights into the human body that enable practitioners to personalise patient care, therefore assisting in ensuring that appropriate care is provided, and costly, inappropriate, alternatives are avoided. Concerning diagnosis, molecular imaging can:

  • provide information that is unattainable with other imaging technologies or that would require more invasive procedures such as biopsy or surgery;
  • identify the disease in its earliest stages and determine the exact location of a tumour, often before symptoms occur or abnormalities can be detected with other diagnostic tests.

Molecular imaging offers unique insights into the human body that enable practitioners to personalise patient care, therefore assisting in ensuring that appropriate care is provided, and costly inappropriate alternatives are avoided. Concerning diagnosis, molecular imaging can:

Molecular imaging procedures are non-invasive, safe and painless, and are used to diagnose and manage the treatment of many ailments.

Molecular imaging provides nuanced information to, amongst others:
  • determine the extent or severity of the disease, including whether it has spread elsewhere in the body
  • select the most efficient therapy based on the unique biologic characteristics of the patient and the molecular properties of a tumour or other disease
  • determine a patient’s response to specific drugs
  • accurately assess the effectiveness of a treatment regiment
  • adapt treatment plans quickly in response to changes in cellular activity
  • assess disease progression
  • identify recurrence of disease and help manage on-going care

Benefits of nuclear medicine

The functional information provided by nuclear medicine examinations is unique and currently unattainable by using other imaging procedures. For many diseases, nuclear medicine studies yield the most useful information needed to make a diagnosis and to determine appropriate treatment, if any. Nuclear medicine is much less traumatic than exploratory surgery, and allergic reaction to the radiopharmaceutical material is extremely rare.


Risks of nuclear medicine

Because the doses of radiopharmaceutical administered are small, nuclear medicine procedures result in exposure to a small dose of radiation. Nuclear medicine has been used for more than five decades, and there are no known long-term adverse effects from such low-dose studies.

As with all radiologic procedures, be sure to inform your physician if you are pregnant. In general, exposure to radiation during pregnancy should be kept to a minimum.

Allergic reactions to the radiopharmaceutical can occur, but are exceedingly rare.


Limitations of nuclear medicine

Nuclear medicine procedures are time-consuming. They involve administration of a radiopharmaceutical, acquisition of images and interpretation of the results. It can take hours to days for the radiopharmaceutical to accumulate in the part of the body under study. Imaging can take up to three hours to perform.