A Peek into the World of Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a special branch of medical imaging that is based on the use of radioactive isotopes (radionuclides) and follows the process of radioactive decay in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

During the nuclear medicine procedures, radionuclides are combined with other chemical compounds to form radiopharmaceuticals. When these radiopharmaceuticals are administered to the patient can localize to specific organs or cellular receptors. Radiopharmaceuticals have a special property that allows nuclear medicine to image the extent of a disease-process in the body.  This is based on the cellular function and physiology and does not depend on the physical changes in the anatomy of the tissue. In some diseases, nuclear medicine studies enable easy identification of medical problems at an early stage as compared to other diagnostic methods. Based on metabolism or binding of a ligand, treatment of various diseases is possible. However, radiopharmaceuticals focus on the tissue-destructive power of short-range ionizing radiation.

A typical nuclear medicine study involves administration of a radionuclide into the patient’s body by ingestion while combined with food, intravenous injection in liquid or aggregate form, inhalation as a gas or aerosol and at times by injection of a radionuclide that has undergone micro-encapsulation. In some cases, nuclear medicine study requires the labeling of a patient's own blood cells with a radionuclide. The diagnostic radionuclides emit gamma rays, whereas the cell-damaging properties of beta particles are used in therapeutic applications.

The most commonly used intravenous radionuclides are Technetium-99m, Iodine-123 and 131, Thallium-201, Gallium-67, Fluorine-18 Fluorodeoxyglucose and Indium-111 Labeled Leukocytes. The end result of the nuclear medicine imaging process is a dataset comprising one or more images.

The nuclear medicine study may require millions of lines of source code for quantitative analysis of the specific imaging techniques available in nuclear medicine.

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