Nuclear medicine uses small amounts of radioactive substances (called tracers or radiopharmaceuticals) combined with imaging technology to show your cells, tissues, organs, and bone function in real time. Radioactive substances are also used to treat conditions like cancer (radiation oncology) and thyroid problems.
Highly-trained nuclear medicine specialists perform these painless, medically advanced procedures. You receive an injection with a safe level of radioactive tracer. As the substance travels through your body, it gives off energy that’s detected by a camera and computer technology to create real-time images.
Depending on the examination area, you may either lie or sit on a table next to the camera. Nuclear medicine procedures usually take about an hour.
Who is a Candidate?
Your doctor may use a nuclear medicine procedure for:
- Brain illness and injuries: such as stroke, seizure disorders, dementia, and schizophrenia
- Digestive health problems: such as infections, gastrointestinal bleeding, or blockages in your bile ducts
- Heart and vascular disease: including arrhythmias, heart failure, and atherosclerosis
- Kidney disease: including kidney stones and infections
- Thyroid, liver, and lung conditions
What to Expect
Positron emission tomography (PET)
A PET scan creates detailed, 3-D images. It’s used mainly to detect cancer and evaluate how a particular cancer treatment is working. It’s also sometimes used to diagnose brain disorders and heart disease.
In some instances, your doctor may use a combined PET/CT scan:
- PET: shows the radioactive tracer as it travels through your body, allowing your doctor to see how your organs function
- CT: shows your internal structure
This combined scan provides more comprehensive information in a single scan than using PET or CT individually.
Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
A SPECT scan is similar to a PET scan — the only difference between the two scans is the type of radioactive tracer. Like PET, SPECT can also be combined with CT (SPECT/CT) to provide more information. A nuclear medicine doctor determines which scan offers the best information for a particular condition.
SPECT scans are mostly used to diagnose and monitor heart disease, but they can be used to examine your bones, gallbladder, and intestinal tract. Doctors also use SPECT to diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
Multiple-gated acquisition (MUGA)
Also called radionuclide ventriculography (RVG) or radionuclide angiography (RNA), a MUGA scan shows your doctor how well your heart beats, including how much blood it pumps with each heartbeat.
Nuclear medicine bone scan
A bone scan examines the health of your bones. Your doctor may use this scan to see how an injury, infection, or disease has affected your bones. Bone scans also help your doctor determine whether treatment is improving your bone condition.
A gallium scan — named for the type of radioactive substance it uses — identifies areas in your body where there’s rapid cell growth. Your doctor may use this test to look for infection, injury, swelling, or cancer.
Why Choose UHealth?
Leading-edge nuclear medicine services in South Florida. Our nuclear medicine doctors and other radiology specialists are also researchers discovering new ways to improve diagnosis and treatment. That means you can get some of today’s most promising advancements through clinical trials.
Expert care from an experienced team. You receive care from highly skilled nuclear medicine doctors, certified nuclear medicine technologists, and specially trained nurses who are committed to your health, safety, and comfort.
Get high-quality vascular imaging close to home. Choose from several locations in South Florida to find nuclear medicine services near you.
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