What is nuclear medicine

What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a field of medicine that uses radioactive substances to diagnose or treat diseases in patients.

During the diagnosis, the specialist in nuclear medicine can primarily examine the function of a possibly diseased organ. He diagnoses an organ malfunction. The nuclear medicine specialist can only roughly recognize the anatomical structure. The Radiology Department is responsible for the detailed assessment of the anatomy.

Nuclear medicine can best be explained using an example, here renal function scintigraphy. In the laboratory, a radioactive substance, also called a radiopharmaceutical or tracer, is "prepared" by the assistant. In most cases, nuclear medicine specialists use the radioactive substance technetium-99m (Tc-99m), which is combined alone or with another substance (pharmaceutical), depending on the type of examination. Tc-99m is a short-lived radioactive substance. After about 6 hours, only half of the original radioactivity can be measured.
In the kidney function scintigraphy, the patient lies down on a couch. The radioactive substance is injected into a vein in the arm. In this case, a substance (drug) labeled with Tc-99m is used, which is taken up and excreted by the kidneys. With the aid of a gamma camera, which can record, measure and also locate the gamma rays that have emerged from the patient's body, the doctor can "see" what is happening in the patient's body. In the case of kidney function scintigraphy, the doctor can follow the blood flow, the cleansing function of the kidneys and the course of the urinary outflow. In this way, the doctor can determine the function of each individual kidney and diagnose a urinary flow disorder.

Today, nuclear medicine specialists use substances that only cause a low level of radiation exposure and which can only very rarely lead to intolerance reactions. Nuclear medicine is often asked to examine patients who have had a very strong allergic reaction to contrast media. The radioactive substances used today are of very good quality.

For more than 10 years, the gamma camera has to be checked daily, weekly and every six months according to quality regulations and, if necessary, adjusted so that it meets the quality requirements again. Controls are carried out by the trade supervisory office and the medical association (medical office).

The nuclear medicine specialist can examine the function of many organs in the body, particularly in the case of cancer. The nuclear medicine specialist can treat thyroid disease, thyroid cancer, joint diseases and other cancers with radioactive substances.