Nuclear medicine may sound like a wave of the future, but it is actually used in hospitals today. For a rare behind the scenes look at what it is, Caroline Gable went to Little Falls Hospital to find out exactly how it's used.
Every precaution is taken when it comes to using radioactive materials. But what exactly is nuclear medicine? Chief Nuclear Technician Erik Strail explains it this way, "Nuclear medicine is the study of the major organs of the body but we use radioactive isotopes to visualize them."
It's a process not harmful to the body, resulting in images with bright colors. A scan takes no more radiation than a chest x-ray, but it goes into the blood stream and throughout the whole body. "We start an I.V. just like we do with our modalities, and after the I.V. is put in we do an injection of the radioactive isotope we are using (depending on the different exams we are doing,) we let it circulate into the body and then the person goes on the table," says Strail.
Some pictures are delayed pictures and some are done right away depending on the test. Most tests range between one and two hours. There is no side effect or reaction, because an isotope is used and not a die. But patients will of course feel the I.V.
"We have a cardiologist here. I'm here. We have an EKG here, and we also have something to reverse the effect if they do have a problem," assures Strail. A popular use of nuclear medicine is for stress tests, but kidney and gallbladder function can also be better defined after this test. The use of nuclear medicine can also reveal other specific things happening in a patient's body or bones.