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The medical specialty that uses radioactive materials, like radioisotopes or radiopharmaceuticals, to diagnose and treat diseases is known as nuclear medicine. As the radioactive materials are introduced into the body, and the radiations emitting from within the body are recorded, it is also called “radiology done inside out" or endoradiology. Unlike radiology, the emphasis is not on the anatomy but the function, thus it is also known as a physiological imaging modality. The two most common imaging techniques used in nuclear medicine are single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Nuclear medicine is used to diagnose various conditions. In such imaging techniques, the patient is asked to consume radioactive material before taking the images. After taking the radiopharmaceuticals, a camera takes pictures of the concerned part of the body while the patient lies flat on a table. PET and SPECT scan provide detailed information on how your organs function. It is helpful in diagnosing many types of cancer, heart diseases, and disorders of the gastrointestinal (gallbladder disease), endocrinal (thyroid disease), and neurological (Alzheimer’s, dementia) systems.
Previously, diagnosing internal problems needed surgeries, but with the help of nuclear medicine, most of such diagnostic procedures have become non-invasive. The other types of imaging in nuclear medicine include targeted molecular ultrasound and magnetic resonance sonography. Radioactive techniques are also used in treatment, for example, radioactive iodine is used to treat thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and hyperthyroidism. To know other treatment options in this field, you can consult professionally trained nuclear medicine radiologist online.