FAQ - Nuclear Medicine

How does Nuclear Medicine work?
Nuclear Medicine imaging procedures use very small amounts of radioactive materials or radiopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat disease. It is these substances that are attracted to specific organs, bones, or tissues. The radiopharmaceuticals used in nuclear medicine emit gamma rays that can be detected externally by special types of cameras: Gamma or Positron Emissions Tomography (P.E.T.) cameras. These cameras work in conjunction with computers used to form images that provide data and information about the area of body being imaged. The amount of radiation from Nuclear Medicine procedures is comparable to that received during an X-ray University MRI facilities have the GE Millennium MG, which is a designated gamma camera utilized for the sole purpose of Nuclear Medicine imaging.

What does the Cardiac Nuclear Medicine exam show?
Cardiac Nuclear medicine tests are indicated for people with unexplained chest pain or chest pain brought on by exercise (called angina) to permit the early detection of heart disease. The most common cardiac nuclear medicine procedure is called myocardial perfusion scanning. It enables the visualization of heart chamber size, heart wall thickness and blood-flow patterns to the heart walls. The test also is important for the evaluation of possible or known coronary artery disease, as well as the results of previous injury to the heart from a heart attack, called a myocardial infarction. These tests can also be done to evaluate the results of bypass surgery or other revascularization procedures designed to restore the blood supply to the heart.

What are the benefits vs. risks of Cardiac Nuclear Medicine?

Benefits: The functional information regarding blood flow to the heart and the pumping function of the heart is well demonstrated.

Computers are involved in the generation of the images, so measurements or quantification of function as well as the determination of abnormalities are possible.

Because the procedure is generally performed according to standardized protocols, the type of examination done at one facility is likely to be similar to that of another facility, making the information easy to understand or to transfer to all doctors who may be involved.

Risks: If you have coronary artery disease, it is possible that you could experience chest pain or angina when stressed by exercise or by being given a drug that applies to your heart. However, your test will be carried out under the supervision of a specialist trained to monitor you and your heart by using information being provided by the electrocardiogram, by your heart rhythm, and by your chest pain.

The use of a radioactive substance will result in exposure to a small amount of radiation to the heart and to the body. However, the amount of radioactivity administered is the smallest possible to provide adequate images. Nuclear medicine procedures have been done for more than three decades, and no long-term adverse effects have been reported.

Allergic reactions to radiopharmaceuticals can occur, but are extremely rare.

As with all Radiologic procedures, it is important that you inform your physician and the technologist if you are pregnant.

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