Get to Know About the Different Types of Nuclear Medicine Scans

Nuclear medicine is a branch of medicine that uses radioactive isotopes (radionuclides) to provide information about a person’s anatomy and the functioning of specific organs. The invaluable information enables physicians to provide a quick of diagnosis of medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease, thyroid disorders and bone fractures. The radionuclides work on the principle of radioactive decay for diagnosis and treatment of disease.

During the nuclear medicine procedure, radionuclides are combined with other chemical compounds or pharmaceuticals to form radiopharmaceuticals. As these are administered to the patient, the radiopharmaceuticals localize to specific organs or cellular receptors. This unique property of radiopharmaceuticals allows the doctors to capture images to evaluate the extent of a disease-process in the body, based on the cellular function and physiology, instead of drawing inference based on physical changes in the tissue anatomy.

There are different types of nuclear medicine scans such as:

  1. Bone or Joint Scan: The scan is done to identify abnormal areas within the bones or joints. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the vein and then images are taken 2 to 3 hours after the injection.
  2. Gallium Scan: This is done to detect infection or tumor. A special camera is used to capture images. After the injection of a radioactive material, the images are taken after 24, 48 or 96 hours, depending on the medical history of the patient.
  3. Gastric Emptying: This is done to evaluate the function of the stomach.
  4. Hepatobiliary Scan: This test is done to evaluate the function of gall bladder and to assess the bile ducts. After the injection of the radioactive material, images are taken immediately with a special camera for a minimum of one hour that can extend up to three hours.
  5. Liver or Spleen Scan: This is a type of scan done to find out the size and function of the liver and spleen.
Thyroid Scan, Kidney Scan, PET scan, MUGA Scan and White Blood Cell Scan are the other types of nuclear medicine scans.


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