About Nuclear Medicine

This is intended for general information only and should not be considered as medical advice on the part of medicaretourindia.com. Any decision on medical treatments, after-care or recovery should be done solely upon proper consultation and advice of a qualified physician.

What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the branch of medicine that involves the administration of radioactive substances in order to diagnose and treat disease. The radionuclide used is usually bound to a specific complex (tracer) that is known to act in a particular way in the body. When disease is present, the tracer may be distributed or processed in a different way to when no disease is present. A large variety of tracer complexes are used in nuclear medicine to visualize and treat the different organs, tissues and physiological systems in the body. Nuclear medicine imaging techniques are also organ- or tissue-specific. While a CT or MRI scan can be used to visualize the whole of the chest cavity or abdominal cavity, for example, nuclear imaging techniques are used to view specific organs such as the lungs, heart or brain.


When is nuclear medicine commonly used?

Nuclear Medicine can diagnose many different kinds of diseases.


  • It can be used to identify abnormal lesions deep in the body without exploratory surgery.
  • The procedures can also determine whether or not certain organs are functioning normally.
  • For example, nuclear medicine can determine whether or not the heart can pump blood adequately.
  • If the brain is receiving an adequate blood supply, and if the brain cells are functioning properly or not.
  • To determine whether or not the kidneys are functioning normally
  • Whether the stomach is emptying properly
  • It can determine a patient’s blood volume
  • Lung function
  • Vitamin absorption
  • Bone density.
  • To locate the smallest bone fracture before it can be seen on an x-ray.
  • It can also identify sites of seizures (epilepsy)
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • To find cancers, determine whether they are responding to treatment
  • Determine if infected bones will heal
  • After a heart attack, nuclear medicine procedures can assess the damage to the heart.
  • It can also tell physicians how well newly transplanted organs are functioning

How should I prepare?

  • Women should always tell the doctor or technician if they suspect they may be pregnant or are breastfeeding.
  • You should also let your doctor know any medications and supplement you are taking.
  • Metallic jewelry and accessories may interfere with the procedure and should be left at home.
  • Your doctor will discuss with you the procedure and add any necessary instructions.

How does the procedure work?

  • The procedure is noninvasive and painless except when getting an injection. Depending on the type of test the radiotracer will either be injected, swallowed or inhaled and eventually accumulates in the area being examined.
  • The radiotracer gives off energy which is detected by a special camera and a computer creates the detailed images on both structure and function of tissues and organs in your body.
  • This technique focuses on showing the body’s physiological processes such as levels of chemical activity and rates of metabolism. Areas that accumulate large amounts of radiotracer are called hot spots and indicate a high level of metabolic or chemical activity.

How is the procedure performed?

  • The procedure can be performed in an outpatient center or in a hospital. You will lie down on an examination table, and if necessary an intravenous(IV) line will be inserted into your arm.
  • The dose of radiotracer is then injected, inhaled as a gas or swallowed. It may take second, hours or days for the radiotracer to accumulate in the area being studied. Therefore, imaging may be done immediately, after a few hours or days after the radiotracer dose is given.
  • Imaging is done by a special camera and you may be asked to change position in between. You will need to lie still while the camera is taking pictures.
  • Depending on the type of test the length of actual scanning greatly varies from 20mminutes to several hours. Some test can even be done over several days. Young children may require sedation to calm and keep them still. The intravenous line will be removed after the procedure is finished.

After the procedure

  • A radiologist or healthcare professional with training in nuclear medicine will interpret the images and give the results to your doctor.