Nuclear medicine uses radioactivity to diagnose and treat disease. It is a multi-disciplined field which combines chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer technology, and medicine. Though there are many diagnostic techniques currently available, nuclear medicine uniquely provides information about both the structure and function of virtually every major organ system within the body. It is this ability to characterize and quantify physiologic function which separates nuclear medicine from other imaging modalities, such as X-ray. Nuclear medicine procedures are safe, they involve little or no patient discomfort and do not require the use of anesthesia. Positron Emission Computed Tomography or PET scanning is part of this field, and is the only imaging modality capable of giving a picture of cellular metabolism.
The Technologist’s Role
The Nuclear Medicine Technologist is a highly specialized healthcare professional who works closely with the nuclear medicine physician. Some of the technologist’s primary responsibilities are to:
- Prepare and administer radioactive chemical compounds, known as radiopharmaceuticals
- Perform patient imaging procedures using sophisticated radiation-detecting instrumentation
- Accomplish computer processing and image enhancement
- Provide images, data analysis, and patient information to the physician for diagnostic interpretation.
During an imaging procedure, the technologist works directly with the patient. The technologist—
- Gains the patient’s confidence by obtaining pertinent history, describing the procedure and answering any questions
- Monitors the patient’s physical condition during the course of the procedure
- Notes any specific patient comments which might indicate the need for additional images or might be useful to the physician in interpreting the results of the procedure.
* Some content from the Society of Nuclear Medicine