What is nuclear medicine?

Here we will try to explain the medicine specialty as simple as possible for general audience.

Nuclear medicine (or NM) is used to diagnose and treat certain diseases in painless and safe way. It gathers medical information, which is otherwise unavailable, or require more invasive diagnostics. Nuclear medicine involved procedures that allow identification of abnormalities long before a disease progresses or detect early stages of diseases that can only be detected in later stages by other diagnostic methods.

This is the major advantage of using NM – the ability to diagnose certain diseases at very early stages. By doing so, the chances of successful treatment are greater.


As the name suggests, it is using small quantities of radioactive material called radioisotope in a pharmaceutical. The combo is named radiopharmaceutical. There are different kinds of such combos that are used to study different parts of the human body. The type of pharmaceutical used is determined by which condition is going to be diagnosed or treated.


nmscanningVery small quantities of radiopharmaceuticals are injected, swallowed or inhaled by the patient. Then each of the parts in the combo goes to work.

The pharmaceutical’s job is to go the specific part of the patient’s body that need to be diagnosed or treated. The radioactive part has another job – it emits gamma rays that are detected by using a gamma camera. The whole process is similar to X-rays, but radiation is detected from inside of the body, not introduced from the outside. The images taken are interpreted by specialists called nuclear medicine specialists who determine what the patient’s disease is.

Before freaking out we want to address once again that the radioactivity used in the process is extremely small quantity. Many experts deem that it is equal or less than radiation absorbed by the body by flying in a plane for 2 hours. It is the same or less of the radiation absorbed by the body of an average American during the course of a year by simply living.

Resource: http://interactive.snm.org/docs/whatisnucmed2.pdf

Disclaimer: The authors of this websites are simply Nuclear medicine enthusiasts and are not doctors. Everything stated here is only made available for reader’s convenience. All opinions stated here are author’s own and do not constitute advice for treatment. Make sure to consult medical specialists before you decide on your treatment.

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