The IAC provides the following links and information for a patient looking to have a nuclear cardiology, nuclear medicine or PET test done.
What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty that is used to diagnose and treat diseases in a safe and painless way. Nuclear medicine procedures permit the determination of medical information that may otherwise be unavailable, require surgery, or necessitate more expensive and invasive diagnostic tests. The procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progression of disease — long before some medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests. This early detection allows a disease to be treated sooner in its course when a more successful prognosis may be possible.
Is “Nuclear” Medicine Safe?
This is a question many in the nuclear medicine community get often. Yes, physicians and technologist trained in nuclear medicine carefully select appropriate medications (radiopharmaceuticals) and minimal radiation dose exposure to acquire maximum diagnostic or therapeutic accuracy. The typical amount of exposure to radiation is comparable to many X-ray and computed tomography (CT) procedures.
A great advantage of nuclear medicine is that early detection of life-threatening heart disorders and other diseases is possible through the use of nuclear medicine procedures performed within hospitals, outpatient centers and physicians’ offices. Nuclear medicine’s reliability in diagnosing vast types of diseases and heart conditions is encouraging as we strive for ways to reduce lives lost in the United States each year. The most critical decision patients must consider is there are many facets that contribute to an accurate diagnosis based on nuclear medicine. These factors include the skill of the nuclear medicine technologist performing the examination, the type of equipment used, the background and knowledge of the interpreting physician and quality assurance measures. In fact, poorly performed and interpreted nuclear medicine procedures often lead to inconvenient, redundant studies, misdiagnosis and even unnecessary tests or surgery.
Types of Nuclear Medicine Exams
Use the links below to learn more about the different types of vascular exams.
- Nuclear Cardiology
- Myocardial Perfusion Imaging scan is a nuclear medicine procedure used to assess the blood flow to the heart muscle both at stress and at rest. The two images are compared to each other to allow an assessment of damage to the heart muscle or a lack of enough blood flow to the heart muscle during exercise. The test is usually ordered by a physician to assess chest pain or other symptoms that may be related to the heart.
- Equilibrium Radionuclide Angiography (ERNA) is a type of nuclear medicine test used to evaluate the function of the heart ventricles. It is also called a MUGA scan (Multi Gated Acquisition). It provides a movie-like image of the beating heart, and allows the doctor to determine the health of the heart’s major pumping chambers. The advantages of an ERNA or MUGA scan is that it is more accurate than an echocardiogram and it is noninvasive. The scan involves the introduction of a radioactive marker into the bloodstream of the patient. The patient is subsequently scanned to determine the circulation dynamics of the marker, and hence the blood.
- Cardiac Amyloidosis is a disorder caused by deposits of an abnormal protein (amyloid) in the heart tissue. These deposits make it hard for the heart to work properly. Amyloidosis is a group of diseases in which clumps of proteins called amyloids build up in body tissues. Technetium pyrophosphate (99mTc-PYP) imaging to diagnose transthyretin cardiac amyloidosis (ATTR-CA) has been increasingly utilized. A distinct advantage of 99mTc-PYP imaging is its ability to specifically identify ATTR cardiac amyloidosis non-invasively and thereby guide patient management.
- General Nuclear Medicine (Gastrointestinal System; Central Nervous System; Endocrine System; Musculoskeletal System; Genitourinary System; Pulmonary System; Infectious Disease Processes; Tumors): Radiopharmaceuticals are introduced into the patient’s body by injection, swallowing, or inhalation. The amount given is very small. The pharmaceutical part of the radiopharmaceutical is designed to go to a specific place in the body where there could be disease or an abnormality. The radioactive part of the radiopharmaceutical that emits radiation, known as gamma rays (similar to x-rays), is then detected using a special camera called a gamma camera. This type of camera allows the nuclear medicine physician to see what is happening inside the patient’s body.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) images demonstrate the chemistry of organs and other tissues such as tumors. A radiopharmaceutical, such as FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose), which includes both sugar (glucose) and a radionuclide (a radioactive element) that gives off signals, is injected into the patient and its emissions are measured by a PET scanner. A PET scanner measures the amount of metabolic activity at a site in the body and a computer reassembles the signals into images. Cancer cells have higher metabolic rates than normal cells, and show up as denser areas on a PET scan which can search for cancer in a single examination. In addition, PET is useful in diagnosing certain cardiovascular and neurological diseases because it highlights areas with increased, diminished, or no metabolic activity, thereby pinpointing problems. PET’s ability to measure metabolism also has significant implications in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and other neurological conditions, because it can vividly illustrate areas where brain activity differs from the norm.
- Radiopharmaceutical Therapy is precision treatment in which a radioactive drug compound seeks and destroys cancer cells. Radiopharmaceutical therapy is highly selective and can kill cancer cell while sparing the healthy cells and can be designed to navigate the unique biological characteristics of the patient while targeting the molecular properties of tumors. These procedures are very patiently friendly because most can be performed as an outpatient and have considerably lower side effects than other conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. It is imperative for the patient to find a facility with highly trained and credentialed physicians with experience in the treatment of patients with these specialized radiopharmaceuticals.
Excerpts of this information are taken, with permission, from the following sources (each sponsoring organizations of the IAC Nuclear/PET):
- Reprinted by permission of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging from “What Is Nuclear Medicine?” Patient Pamphlet.
- The World Molecular Imaging Society‘s copyrighted, printed patient information brochure entitled “Power of Molecular Imaging.”
IAC offers an online tool to assist patients in locating an IAC-accredited facility. When scheduling a test, patients should research the accreditation status of the facility. To find an IAC Nuclear/PET accredited facility, visit the IAC Accredited Facility Locator and select Nuclear/PET under Modalities.
Resources for Patients
SNMMI | Nuclear Medicine/Molecular Imaging Overview
The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging offers resources and videos for patients on nuclear medicine. Learn more at www.snmmi.org/Patients.