Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine (NM) is an emerging technology in healthcare. It entails using radionuclides or radiopharmaceuticals to examine, detect, and treat various conditions found within the human anatomy. NM is widely used in the diagnostic treatment of various pathological ailments, including cancer, heart disease, and other brain disorders. Modern healthcare systems continually use different nuclear medicine techniques. These techniques include Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) scans. Using these techniques allows physicians to diagnose, assess, and treat different pathological health conditions. An investigation of the scientific and technical concepts of nuclear medicine reviews its background, its applicability in healthcare, and its implications on human health relative to radiopharmaceutical therapy.

Background

Type of radiation typically exploited in most nuclear medicine procedures

Nuclear medicine uses different kinds of radiation energy to detect and diagnose various pathological conditions within the human anatomy. The commonly exploited radiation in nuclear medicine is gamma rays. NM procedures involve administering radiopharmaceuticals into an individual’s bloodstream through either inhalation, oral intake, or injection. On entering the bloodstream, the tracer travels to the tissue or organ under examination (Choi, 2018). The radionuclide subsequently emits energy instantly picked up by a computer and a special gamma camera to provide clear imaging of inherent body structures. Thus far, this aspect of nuclear medicine initiates a prompt detection of pathological conditions in the human anatomy.

Preparations of patients for nuclear medicine procedures

Patients must conform to a variety of systematic preparations before undergoing any of the different nuclear medicine procedures. Patients undergoing a NM scan of their gastrointestinal systems must fast for a minimum of 6 hours. Nonetheless, NM procedures scheduled for cardiac systems similarly require patients to undertake a 6 – hour long fasting before the procedure (Choi, 2018). Thyroid scanning alternatively requires patients to cease intake of particular medications. To that end, every scan demands a different set of requirements from the patients before their commencement.

Advantages and limitations of nuclear medicine

NM exhibits a diverse array of merits and demerits in healthcare. The use of PET and SPECT scans can produce clearer images of organ and tissue structures within the human anatomy (Ramamoorthy, 2018). Ideally, this confers physicians with the potential to detect, diagnose, and treat anomalous health conditions during their earliest manifestation stages (Ramamoorthy, 2018). As a form of modern medicine, however, NM exposes patients to radiation. Radiation exposure is linked to the causality of widespread pathological conditions, including cancer. To that end, while beneficial in the detection and treatment of pathological ailments, it equally poses a threat to the safety of countless patient lives.

Ailments diagnosed and treated via nuclear medicine procedures

Medical professionals rely on varied NM procedures to diagnose wide-ranging pathological health conditions. Common ailments diagnosed under NM include cancer, heart disease, bone disease, gastrointestinal, and neurologic disorders, such as Alzheimer’s.

Applications of nuclear medicine in healthcare

NM has myriad applications in healthcare. Common applications of NM include Positron Emission Tomography, Octreotide scans, and hybrid scans encompassing both X-Ray computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans.

PET scan

PET scans involve using radiotracers injected into the bloodstream to examine and diagnose ailments within bodily tissues and organs. Medical professionals use radionuclides to identify areas within a patient’s body exhibiting abnormalities (Hephzibah, 2018). PET scans are useful in identifying onset tumors and any other pathological condition hidden within the body (Hephzibah, 2018). To that end, PET scans provide clear imaging of bodily structures and functions.  

Hybrid imaging

The use of hybrid imaging equally features as a modality for nuclear medical application in healthcare. Hybrid imaging entails combining two imaging techniques, comprising MRI and CT scan, to produce a powerful imaging modality (Ramamoorthy, 2018). The subsequent fusion of X-Ray CT and MRI techniques enhances the clarity of the structural body images. In effect, this enhances the accuracy of numerous diagnoses, thereby fostering the delivery of quality healthcare.

Octreotide scan

Somatostatin receptor scintigraphy, also known as octreotide scan, examines the presence of neuroendocrine tumor cells in the body (Ramamoorthy, 2018). Using this technique, medical professionals can easily detect localized neuroendocrine cancerous cells in bodily tissue.

Nuclear medicine therapy using radiopharmaceuticals

Using radiotherapy in treating cancer transcends decades of quality healthcare. Medical professionals have always used external radiation to kill tumor cells (Ramamoorthy, 2018). However, its inability to target the abnormalities at the cellular level has greatly hampered its efficacy in killing cancerous cells (Hephzibah, 2018). On the other hand, radiopharmaceuticals can easily travel and target cancerous cells at the cellular level. This fosters the eradication of every cancerous cell within a targeted tissue or organ in the body.

Conclusion

Suffice to say, a research of the scientific and technical concepts entailed in nuclear medicine has yielded information concerning its background, application in healthcare, and use in radiopharmaceutical therapy. NM commonly entails the use of gamma radiation to produce imaging of innate body structures. The application of NM techniques, such as PET and CT scans, has proven effective in diagnosing and treating countless pathological conditions in the body. The adoption of radiopharmaceutical therapy in healthcare has equally proven effective in treating cancerous cells at the cellular level.

References

Choi, H. (2017). Deep Learning in Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging: Current Perspectives and Future Directions. Nuclear Medicine And Molecular Imaging52(2), 109-118. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13139-017-0504-7

Hephzibah, J. (2018). Overview of nuclear medicine. Current Medical Issues16(4), 121. https://doi.org/10.4103/cmi.cmi_50_18

Ramamoorthy, N. (2018). Impact of nuclear medicine and radiopharmaceuticals on health-care delivery: Advances, lessons, and need for an objective value-matrix. Indian Journal Of Nuclear Medicine33(4), 273. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijnm.ijnm_56_18

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