FAQs | Morkel Nuclear Medicine
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FAQs

WHAT IS NUCLEAR MEDICINE?

Nuclear medicine is a medical speciality that is used to diagnose and sometimes treat disease in a safe and painless manner.  Nuclear medicine procedures are a way to collect medical information that may be difficult to obtain with conventional procedures, or necessitate more expensive and invasive tests.  Nuclear medicine is unique because it provides doctors with information about both structure and function of organs. The procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progression of disease.  This early detection allows a disease to be treated sooner in its course when a more successful outcome may be possible.

HOW DOES NUCLEAR MEDICINE WORK?

Nuclear medicine  uses  radiopharmaceuticals  that  consists  of  a  medicine  (a pharmaceutical)  that is attached to a small quantity of a radioactive material (a radioisotope).  There are many different radiopharmaceuticals available to study different parts of the body.  Which radiopharmaceutical is used depends on the condition to be diagnosed or treated.  Radiopharmaceuticals, also called tracers, are introduced into the patient’s body by injection, swallowing or inhalation.

Radiopharmaceuticals emit energy known as gamma rays (similar to X-rays) that can be detected by special types of cameras (such as PET, SPECT, or gamma cameras).  These cameras work online with computers to form images that provide detailed information about the part of the body being imaged.  These cameras come in different shapes and sizes.  The nuclear medicine specialist will select the best camera type based on which area of the body and for what reason it will be scanned and the best technology available.  Some cameras move across the body, some rotate around the body, and some do not move at all.  These cameras do not hurt or make any noise.  Furthermore, unlike X-rays, CT scanners, ultrasounds, or MRIs, nuclear medicine cameras transmit no radiation through the patient.

If nuclear medicine is used to help treat your condition, the tracer is designed in such a way to go to the diseased area allowing treatment to be targeted to this site of the disease.

YOUR NUCLEAR MEDICINE TEAM

A nuclear medicine specialist, also called NUCLEAR PHYSICIAN, is a trained and certified medical doctor who plans your study, interprets the images obtained, and reports the results to the doctor who requested your procedure.

A nuclear medicine RADIOGRAPHER or TECHNOLOGIST is a uniquely trained individual, highly educated in the theory and practice of nuclear medicine technology whose responsibilities include the preparation of radiopharmaceuticals, calibrating the dose, its administration and operation of the special imaging equipment.

IS NUCLEAR MEDICINE A NEW SPECIALITY?

No, nuclear medicine is a well established and proven discipline.  It was first used over 60 years ago, making it older than CT, MRI, and ultrasound.  Nuclear medicine procedures are now common in most countries in the world.

HOW IS NUCLEAR MEDICINE DIFFERENT FROM X-RAYS, CT, MRI, ULTRASOUND?

As with all other imaging modalities the great value of nuclear medicine imaging lies in its capability for non-invasive measurements, but there are important differences.  Where the latter provide information primarily about the body structures, nuclear medicine diagnostic imaging procedures make possible measurements of regional body functions.  Radiological imaging procedures will show how an organ looks, nuclear medicine will show how the organ works. Combine the two and we have a winning formula for medical diagnostic success.

ARE THERE ANY SAFETY CONCERNS WITH NUCLEAR MEDICINE PROCEDURES?

Don’t let the words “nuclear” or “radioisotope” scares you.  Nuclear medicine procedures are designed to expose you to the least radiation possible while successfully performing the procedure.  The radioactive material is given in very small doses, does not make you feel differently, loses radioactivity within a short period of time and quickly leaves the body (usually within the first 24 hours).  For your comfort, all tracers are prepared with exceptional care and have been thoroughly tested, controlled and approved the corresponding Medicine Control Council, Authority or Administration of a respective country.

HOW DO I PREPARE FOR MY PROCEDURE?

Before your procedure you should inform your doctor if you are pregnant, breast feeding, taking medication or receiving treatment so that the nuclear physician plan your examination to improve the quality of diagnosis. In some cases you will be asked to stop or change temporarily your medication, eating, fasting, drinking or smoking.

Nuclear medicine procedures are commonly performed in children and in special circumstances pregnant women.  They are given the appropriate, adjusted dose of radiopharmaceutical to image the patient.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN DURING MY PROCEDURE?

You will be given a small dose of the radiopharmaceutical, usually intravenously, sometimes orally or by inhalation.  Depending on which type of scan is being performed, the imaging will either be done immediately after you receive the tracer, a few hours, or even a few days after your injection.

When you are ready for imaging you will be asked to lie down while the camera is positioned over your body.  While the images are being taken, you must remain as still as possible.  Imaging time varies, generally ranging from 20 to 45 minutes.

WILL THE PROCEDURE HURT?

When the radiopharmaceutical is injected, there may be some minor discomfort caused by the pricking of the skin, as in any other intravenous injection.  If for any reason you experience any additional pain or discomfort, please let the nuclear physician or radiographer performing the procedure know immediately.

HOW WILL I LEARN THE RESULTS OF MY PROCEDURE?

A nuclear medicine specialist will review your images, prepare a written report, and discuss the results with your doctor.  Your doctor will then explain the results to you and discuss what further procedures, tests, or examinations, if any, are needed. Or if satisfied with the results, start adequate treatment.

WHAT IS RADIATION?

Nuclear MedicineRadiation is a natural form of energy such as light, sound.  However, what makes it mysterious is that it cannot be seen, heard or touched or smelled or tasted, it is extra sensorial, and we can only measure or “see” radiation with the aid of special instrument. But even if you cannot feel it, it is there, coming from the cosmic rays from the sun, or all other compounds on earth such as bricks, cement, air and water.  We humans are also naturally radioactive.  As a matter of fact, every single living organism, plant, animal, or human being has been bathed in radiation from the time of life inception and all through life time.  Radiation can be produced artificially in X-ray instruments, nuclear reactors, cyclotrons, linear accelerators, etc., which are mostly used for medical purposes in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

IS RADIOACTIVITY HARMFUL?

Yes, in large and uncontrolled circumstances it can be harmful.  But you must understand that excessive light can also make you blind and excessive noise can make you deaf.  For that matter, anything in excess is harmful.  The energy coming from radiation can be harnessed and if used in minute quantities mostly for medical uses it is beneficial to the wellbeing of a patient.