NUCLEAR MEDICINE

Depending on age and physiological characteristics, approximately 40 to 60 percent of women have dense breast tissue during at least part of their lives. Every patient who receives a notification with her mammogram results that she has dense breasts should have a conversation with her primary care physician or gynecologist about whether additional screenings, such as 3D mammography, breast MRI, or breast ultrasound, may be warranted.

In adults and children, nuclear medicine is also used to:

Cancer

  • stage cancer by determining the presence or spread of cancer in various parts of the body
  • localize sentinel lymph nodes before surgery in patients with breast cancer or skin and soft tissue tumors.
  • plan treatment
  • evaluate response to therapy
  • detect the recurrence of cancer
  • detect rare tumors of the pancreas and adrenal glands

Renal

  • analyze native and transplant kidney blood flow and function
  • detect urinary tract obstruction
  • evaluate for hypertension related to the kidney arteries
  • evaluate kidneys for infection versus scar
  • detect and follow-up urinary reflux

In children, nuclear medicine is also used to:

  • investigate abnormalities in the esophagus, such as esophageal reflux or motility disorders
  • evaluate the openness of tear ducts
  • evaluate the openness of ventricular shunts in the brain
  • assess congenital heart disease for shunts and pulmonary blood flow

Nuclear medicine therapies include:

  • Radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy used to treat some causes of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland, for example, Graves’ disease) and thyroid cancer
  • Radioactive antibodies used to treat certain forms of lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system)
  • Radioactive phosphorus (P-32) used to treat certain blood disorders
  • Radioactive materials used to treat painful tumor metastases to the bones
  • I-131 MIBG (radioactive iodine labeled with metaiodobenzylguanidine) used to treat adrenal gland tumors in adults and adrenal gland/nerve tissue tumors in children

Common uses of the procedure

Physicians use radiosonde imaging procedures to visualize the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone or system within the body.

In adults, nuclear medicine is used to:

Heart

  • visualize heart blood flow and function (such as a myocardial perfusion scan)
  • detect coronary artery disease and the extent of coronary stenosis
  • assess damage to the heart following a heart attack
  • evaluate treatment options such as bypass heart surgery and angioplasty
  • evaluate the results of revascularization procedures
  • detect heart transplant rejection
  • evaluate heart function before and after chemotherapy
  • Lungs
  • scan lungs for respiratory and blood flow problems
  • assess differential lung function for lung reduction or transplant surgery
  • detect lung transplant rejection
  • Bones
  • evaluate bones for fractures, infection and arthritis
  • evaluate for metastatic bone disease
  • evaluate painful prosthetic joints
  • evaluate bone tumors
  • identify sites for biopsy

Brain

  • investigate abnormalities in the brain in patients with certain symptoms or disorders, such as seizures, memory loss and suspected abnormalities in blood flow
  • detect the early onset of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer‘s disease
  • assist in surgical planning and localize seizure foci
  • evaluate for abnormalities in a chemical in the brain involved in controlling movement in patients with suspected Parkinson’s disease or related movement disorders
  • evaluation for suspected brain tumor recurrence, surgical or radiation planning or localization for biopsy

Other Systems

  • identify inflammation or abnormal function of the gallbladder
  • identify bleeding into the bowel
  • assess post-operative complications of gallbladder surgery
  • evaluate lymphedema
  • evaluate fever of unknown origin
  • locate the presence of infection
  • measure thyroid function to detect an overactive or underactive thyroid
  • help diagnose hyperthyroidism and blood cell disorders
  • evaluate for hyperparathyroidism
  • evaluate stomach emptying
  • evaluate spinal fluid flow and potential spinal fluid leaks

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