Advanced Diagnostics and Therapies with Nuclear Medicine
The UH Department of Nuclear Medicine offers a wide variety of radionuclide exams and therapies to examine, diagnose and treat organ function and structure through the use of various radioactive substances (radioisotopes). The department is equipped with the most advanced equipment and technology, including digital SPECT, SPECT/CT, and PET/CT scans, enabling us to expertly perform a full spectrum of nuclear medicine exams.
If your doctor has ordered a nuclear medicine procedure for you, trust UH to provide the most advanced care available. Schedule your appointment today at a UH location near you.
Nuclear Medicine as a Diagnostic Tool
There are more than 40 nuclear medicine exams that may be used to help diagnose a variety of medical conditions and diseases. Some of the more common tests include the following:
- Bone Scans
Nuclear bone scans are often used to determine if cancers have spread to the bones. This study is most often performed in patients with breast or prostate cancer, but may be helpful with other cancers as well. Bone scans can also be used to evaluate degenerative/arthritic changes in the joints; to look for bone infections; and to detect other bone diseases or tumors that may be causing bone pain or inflammation.
- Brain Scans
Nuclear brain scans may be used to investigate problems within the brain and/or in the blood circulation to the brain. Used in conjunction with PET/CT and/or SPECT/CT imaging, a nuclear medicine exam may be helpful in detecting neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease and in identifying the area(s) of the brain where epileptic seizures originate.
- Gallbladder Scans
The gallbladder is a small organ which stores and secretes the digestive juices (bile) made by the liver. A nuclear scan may be done to detect or confirm gallbladder diseases such as cholecystitis, which is inflammation and swelling of the gallbladder that can occur when bile is trapped due to an obstruction or other abnormality.
- Heart Scans
One of the most commonly performed nuclear medicine procedures, a nuclear heart scan can be done using either conventional gamma cameras or with PET and CT. It may be used to study blood flow to the heart, to measure heart function and to assess for cardiac sarcoidosis (areas of inflammation that can disrupt heart rhythm and blood flow). A nuclear heart study may also be used determine the extent of heart muscle damage after a heart attack. In particular, it can help distinguish between scar tissue in the heart muscle, which can’t be salvaged, and muscle that is still viable with the potential to be treated and restored to function.
- Other Organ Scans
Nuclear medicine scans can be used to detect abnormalities in any organ in the human body. Additional scans include:
- Renal (kidney) scans to evaluate kidney function and look for any obstructions to blood flow
- Thyroid scans to evaluate function and provide more information about a thyroid nodule or tumor
- Parathyroid scans to help to evaluate for tumors of the parathyroid glands
Nuclear medicine imaging exams may also be used to:
- Evaluate gastric emptying - how well the stomach muscles function in moving food and liquids from the stomach into the first part of the small intestine.
- Identify the source of internal bleeding
- Determine if there is related, underlying disease when a pulmonary embolism is found.
Understanding CT, SPECT and PET Scans
Positron Emission Tomography (PET). A nuclear medicine imaging procedure that can help detect biochemical or metabolic changes that may signal the onset of a disease process before anatomical changes can be seen on X-ray, CT or MRI scans. PET is most often used in patients with brain or heart conditions or with cancer.
Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT). A nuclear medicine imaging procedure that uses radioactive tracers and both computed tomography (CT) and gamma camera technology to generate 3-D images of the area being studied. SPECT is most commonly used to help diagnose or monitor brain, heart and bone disorders.
Nuclear Medicine as a Treatment Option
In addition to its use as a diagnostic tool, nuclear medicine also has a wide range of therapeutic applications. Treatment, and sometimes pain relief, are offered for conditions such as:
- Grave’s disease - an immune system disorder that can cause the body to make too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), which can damage the heart and other organs
- Thyroid cancer
- Benign thyroid disease
- Liver cancer
- Cancer that has spread to the bone and/or lymphatic system
- Neuroendocrine tumors