About Nuclear Medicine
Nuclear medicine exams image bodily function rather than anatomy.
They can be useful in finding problems that are not obvious by looking at the structure of an organ or tissue. This is done with the use of small amounts of radioactive materials, also known as tracers. Each tracer is designed to be attracted to specific organs or types of body tissue. Special cameras that can map the distribution of the radioactive tracer create images which are studied by radiologists.
Nuclear medicine scans are very safe. Nuclear medicine has been used in newborns and children for more than four decades and even longer in adults. There are no known long-term adverse effects from such low-dose exams.
About Positron Emission Tomography PET Scans
With a PET scan, the patient receives a radioactive version of a substance that is often normally used by the body, such as glucose. This tracer travels through the body and is used by cells similar to how the non-radioactive version would be. The type of radiation emitted by PET tracers is different from other nuclear medicine tracers, but they are also very safe and the amount of radiation involved is similar to that of other nuclear medicine and diagnostic x-ray exams.
The PET scanner detects the location and concentration of the tracer throughout the body. That information is displayed in three dimensional images that are analyzed by a radiologist. The radiologist can identify abnormalities in the distribution and utilization of the tracer that indicate disease. Cancer cells, for example, will take up glucose differently from regular cells. This difference can be seen on the PET scan images.
Following are some of the reasons for obtaining a PET scan in patients with known or suspected disease:
- Differentiate benign from malignant tumors
- Stage or restage cancer by determining extent of disease
- Assess effectiveness of therapy
- Localize tumor in patients with suspected recurrence of cancer
- Differentiate early Alzheimer’s from other dementias
- Localize seizure foci in patients with epilepsy
- Evaluate malignancy of brain tumors
- Detect and assess the presence and severity of coronary artery disease
- Detect the presence of viable heart tissue (assess potential benefit of heart surgery)
- Localize source of infection or fevers
- Detect the presence of infection or inflammation
- Indications same as those for a standard nuclear medicine bone scan, but with better image quality
Most PET scans now also involve performing a CT scan at the same time. The same scanner can create and combine both PET and CT images while the patient remains still. This technology known as PET/CT offers the best of both worlds by fusing form (CT) and function (PET) together.
The exam is performed at the following Radiology Imaging Associates partner hospitals in the Denver, Colorado area:
- Medical Center of Aurora
- Littleton Adventist Hospital
- Porter Adventist Hospital
- Swedish Medical Center