Nuclear medicine imaging provides unique information that often cannot be obtained using other imaging procedures and offers the potential to identify disease in its earliest stages. Is a specialized area of radiology that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose, evaluate or treat a variety of diseases. Nuclear medicine exams can pinpoint molecular activity, they have the potential to identify disease in its earliest stages. They can also show whether a patient is responding to treatment.
Positron Emission Tomography, is a type of nuclear medicine imaging. PET scan may detect the early onset of disease by identifying changes at the cellular level before other imaging tests can. PET uses a small amount of radioactive material that can be detected on the PET scanner. The most commonly used radiotracer is F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose, or FDG, a molecule similar to glucose. Cancer cells are more metabolically active and may absorb glucose at a higher rate. This higher rate can be seen on PET scans.
The risks from diagnostic doses are usually small compared to other lifetime risks to which the patient is exposed to and the amount of radiation dose in most diagnostic procedures is less than an x-ray, CT scan, or fluoroscopy.
When the body is exposed to radiation, tissue damage may occur, which in turn may damage DNA or chromosomes, increasing the risk of genetic mutations. When a fetus is exposed to radiation doses, it may cause abnormalities in an organ or irreparable damage and if the radiation dose is too high, it may cause the death of the fetus.
The radioactive dose used in diagnostic procedures in nuclear medicine is very low, unlike radiation treatments in which the amount of radioactive dose is high and this gives the desired effect on the tissues or organs when radiotherapy. That is why the patient must undergo a pregnancy test in the event of suspicion or if the pregnancy is uncertain before starting the therapeutic doses.
In diagnostic procedures the radioactivity is very low. However, the patient may be asked to maintain a distance of approximately one meter between him and his family members for a period of time given by the nuclear medicine specialist to protect them from exposure to radiation.
One the other hand, in therapeutic procedures, the patients may present some slight risk to their family members if they do not follow the INSTRUCTIONS ON RADIATION SAFETY given to them by the nuclear medicine specialist.
No, you shouldn’t because nuclear medicine scans use high-energy radioisotopes, the radiation passes directly from the other person without interacting with tissues. In contrast, wearing a lead apron slows down the radiation beam, which allows it to deposit its energy in the body and interact with tissues.
Nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures are safe except for pregnant ladies, unless it is requested by the physician for exceptional cases. However, the procedure better to be discussed with the doctor to know the desired benefits of the test and the alternative procedures, or you can ask the the nuclear medicine specialist about the procedure.