Radiological Scanner

What Is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is defined as the branch of medicine that uses radioactive isotopes, nuclear radiation, electromagnetic variations of the components of the atomic nucleus and related biophysical techniques, for prevention, diagnosis, therapeutic and medical research.

What is nuclear medicine?

The clinical applications of radiopharmaceuticals cover virtually all medical specialties.

Nuclear medicine has a close relationship with various basic and applied sciences, such as physics, chemistry, electronics, cybernetics and pharmacy, and with other branches of medicine such as physiology, pathophysiology, radiodiagnosis and other diagnostic imaging techniques.

At present, most hospitals and health centers have a radiology department and a Department of nuclear medicine, and use radiochemical laboratory methods for diagnosis and research of a wide variety of diseases.

Which Specialties Exist in Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the medical specialty that uses radioactive isotopes, nuclear radiation, electromagnetic variations of atomic nucleus components and related biophysical techniques for medical prevention, diagnosis, therapy and research. Likewise, nuclear medicine includes the study of biological phenomena caused by the use of radioactive isotopes, as well as the use of cyclotrons and nuclear reactors in the production of radionuclides for medical use, and the application of imaging and reconstruction systems. data processing

Its field of action includes the following aspects:

  • Prevention : In this aspect, nuclear medicine applies the knowledge and techniques that are proper to hygiene, prophylactic and preventive medicine and radiological protection.
  • Research : Nuclear medicine is developed in basic and applied research, using radioactive isotopes and related biophysical techniques.
  • Diagnosis : It mainly includes the performance of functional, morphological, dynamic, morphofunctional and analytical tests, based on biochemical, physiological and pathophysiological principles, aimed at achieving a better knowledge and understanding of the structure and function of the human body in a state of health or disease .
  • T erapéutica : In addition to the important impact of diagnostic techniques of nuclear medicine on the treatment and management of patients, this specialty includes in its scope, some specific therapeutic indications made by the administration to patients of radiopharmaceuticals (therapy metabolic, endolymphatic, intracavitary, etc.). It also includes the treatment and prevention of the biological effects caused by exposure to ionizing radiation, especially when this exposure is due to external irradiation or contamination caused by non-encapsulated radioactive substances.

Diagnostic Imaging

In the imaging of nuclear medicine, radiopharmaceuticals are taken internally, for example, intravenously or orally. Then, the external detectors (gamma cameras) capture and form images of the radiation emitted by the radiopharmaceuticals. This process is different from a diagnostic x-ray, where external radiation passes through the body to form an image.

Nuclear medicine tests differ from most other imaging modalities in that diagnostic tests primarily show the physiological function of the system being investigated in opposition to traditional anatomical images. Nuclear medicine imaging studies are generally more specific to organs, tissues or diseases than those of conventional radiological imaging, which focus on a particular section of the body.

Therapeutic Specialty: Interventional Nuclear Medicine

Radionuclide therapy can be used to treat conditions such as hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer and blood disorders.

In nuclear medicine therapy, the radiation treatment dose is administered internally rather than from an external radiation source.

The radiopharmaceuticals used in nuclear medicine therapy emit ionizing radiation that travels only a short distance, thus minimizing unwanted side effects and damage to non-involved organs or nearby structures. Most nuclear medicine therapies can be performed as outpatient procedures, since there are few side effects of the treatment and radiation exposure to the general public can be kept within a safe limit.


    Published: June 11, 2010
    Last review: January 24, 2020