Nuclear medicine is the use of radioactive materials to diagnosis, manage, treat and prevent serious disease. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progression of a disease, long before some medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests.
A unique aspect of a nuclear medicine test is its extreme sensitivity to abnormalities in an organ's structure or function. It's the best early warning system for certain kinds of heart disease, thyroid disease, tumors, bone changes and more. Nuclear medicine is considered "functional imaging" because it actually takes images of how the organ or system is functioning. Nuclear medicine differs from an x-ray, ultrasound or other diagnostic test because it determines the presence of disease based on biological changes rather than anatomy. This means that nuclear medicine can help physicians diagnose disease earlier and make treatment more effective.
Safety of Nuclear Medicine
During a nuclear medicine study, a patient receives an extremely small amount of radiopharmaceutical. The amount of radiopharmaceutical used is carefully selected to provide the least amount of radiation exposure to the patient while ensuring an accurate test. The nuclear medicine team will carefully perform the most appropriate examination for the patient's particular medical problem and thereby avoid any unnecessary radiation exposure. The amount of radiation from a nuclear medicine study is comparable to, or often less than, that of a diagnostic x-ray.
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