Why is it called Nuclear Medicine? Because it refers to a pharmaceutical that, once in the body, becomes attached to a small quantity of radioactive material (a radio-isotope) which then goes through a process of radioactive decay. The way in which these radiopharmaceuticals react at the cellular and physiological level will provide clues in the process of diagnosis. Which radiopharmaceutical is used will depend upon the condition to be diagnosed or treated. Nuclear Medicine Tech's are the trained professionals who administer the radiopharmaceuticals to the patient.
The radiopharmaceuticals are detected by special cameras that work with computers to provide precise pictures of the area of the body being imaged. These are called gamma cameras. The amount of radiation used is equivalent to that received during a diagnostic X-Ray and kept within safe limits.
According to SNM Resource Center, nuclear medicine offers procedures that are essential in many medical specialties, from pediatrics, cardiology to psychiatry. Nuclear medicine treatments target and pinpoint molecular levels within the body and are revolutionizing our understanding of and approach to a range of diseases and conditions. Nuclear medicine uses cost effective techniques that are safe and painless to image the body and treat diseases. It is unique in the way that it provides information on structure and function both unlike regular imaging techniques such as those performed by Radiographers. It is also cost effective beause it doesn't require more expensive diagnostic tests or surgery. Nuclear medicine's ability to capture the cellular level function of an organ can help to identify abnormalities earlier than regular diagnostic tests.
So, the next time you hear someone talking about nuclear medicine, you'll know it's a safe and effective way of treating and diagnosing diseases just like other common medical imaging procedures used among the radiology professions.