Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty involving the application of radioactive substances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Nuclear medicine imaging uses small amounts of radioactive materials called radiotracers that are typically injected into the bloodstream, inhaled or swallowed. The radiotracer travels through the area being examined and gives off energy in the form of gamma rays which are detected by a special camera and a computer to create images of the inside of your body. Nuclear medicine imaging provides unique information that often cannot be obtained using other imaging procedures and offers the potential to identify disease in its earliest stages.
The diagnostic processes are applicable to the different parts of the body such as bones, brain, kidneys, heart, digestive system and urinary system.
The main difference between nuclear medicine diagnostic tests and other imaging modalities is that nuclear imaging techniques show the physiological function of the tissue or organ being investigated, while traditional imaging systems such as computed tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scans) show only the anatomy or structure.
One of the most popular diagnostic methods in nuclear medicine is the heart scan.