Diagnostic nuclear medicine involves the use of radiopharmaceuticals (pharmaceuticals labelled with a radioactive substance) to non-invasively assess the function of various organs or systems of the body. The radiopharmaceutical used in the department is Tc99m
The radiopharmaceutical is usually injected into the patient through a vein in the arm or hand. Imaging is undertaken, after a specified time, using a gamma camera. This is a radiation detector and produces images representing the distribution of radioactivity in the patient.
- The radiopharmaceuticals are prepared on site, in a purpose built radiopharmacy. The department has one gamma camera and has tomographic imaging (SPECT) and whole body scanning capabilities.
- The section is headed by a Superintendent Radiographer, who is assisted by other radiology staff. The clinical lead for nuclear medicine is a Consultant Radiologist.
- The section offers a range of diagnostic tests. The most frequently undertaken procedures are detailed below, however a variety of other examinations are also undertaken
- A bone scan is the most sensitive method for demonstrating bone disease, often providing earlier diagnosis or demonstrating more lesions than are found on an X-ray. It can be used to investigate a wide variety of conditions, both benign and malignant, including infection and trauma. The technique can be adapted to suit the particular clinical question to be answered.
- A lung perfusion scan is a test used in the investigation of suspected blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism).
- Lung blood flow (perfusion) can be assessed using small radioactive particles injected into the blood stream.
- The presence of perfusion defects in the lungs gives a possibility of a pulmonary embolism.
- Renal imaging provides information relating to the urinary tract.
- Static imaging uses a radiopharmaceutical which concentrates in the proximal renal tubules of the kidney and remains there. Several images can be taken to assess the distribution of functional tissue which can be used to investigate suspected congenital or ectopic abnormalities, renal trauma and renal scarring.
- Dynamic renal imaging uses a radiopharmaceutical which is rapidly excreted by the kidneys. Serial images provide information on renal blood supply, renal function and excretion which is useful when investigating known or suspected obstruction, hypertension and reflux.
- Although other imaging techniques may show thyroid anatomy, the function of the thyroid and any nodules present is best assessed by a nuclear medicine scan.
- Clinical indications for thyroid imaging include investigation of thyroid nodules, goitre and the causes of an overactive thyroid (thyrotoxicosis).