Most nuclear medicine processes exploit ionizing radiation (Cho et al., 2017). The World Health Organization (WHO, 2016) defines ionizing radiation as an energy type that comes from atoms and moves as electromagnetic waves. In nuclear medicine, the waves appear as X-rays or gamma rays.

Cho et al. (2017) explained that a doctor introduces radioactive materials, known as radio pharmaceuticals, into the patient’s bloodstream to get ionizing radiation. Radio pharmaceuticals cause the patient’s body parts or organs to become temporarily radioactive. The ironizing radiation, in the form of gamma rays, is then emitted from the patient’s body (CDC, 2014) and measured using a gamma camera.

Preparing Patients for Nuclear Medicine Procedures

The preparations for nuclear medicine procedures depend on the type of disease and the preferred form of medical examination. Based on these, the doctor decides whether to inject the radio pharmaceutical or to let the patient swallow or inhale it (Payolla et al., 2019). According to CDC (2014), the doctor directs the patient to lie on a table after administering the radio pharmaceutical.

A gamma camera is then placed over the body of the patient to detect radiation, and a computer monitor displays what the camera captures. This way, the doctor gets to see the body parts with most concentration of radioactive materials and is able to check functionality of such organs and diagnose a disease.

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Advantages and Limitations of Nuclear Medicine

The advantages and disadvantages are discussed below.


  • Nuclear medicine provides advanced options of treatment. Its digital and technical procedures enable treatment of complex ailments like cancer, through radiation and chemotherapy (Payolla et al., 2019).
  • CDC (2014) also explained that nuclear medicine improves early detection and treatment of diseases.
  • Moreover, nuclear medicine procedures are thorough and present accurate outcomes (CDC, 2014; Payolla et al., 2019). This simplifies assessment and analysis of health issues.


  • Nuclear medicine is very expensive because pharmaceuticals’ cost tends to be very high (Ahmed & Al-Surimi, 2015). The costs are high for both patients and hospitals.
  • Again, there are health risks associated with prolonged nuclear medicine exposure (Cho et al., 2017). Radiation from the equipment during procedures may be harmful to elderly patients and expectant women.

Ailments diagnosed and treated via Nuclear Medicine Procedures

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine Committee on State of the Science of Nuclear Medicine (NRC & IMCSSNM 2007) identify neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer as the main types of ailments that nuclear medicine help to diagnose and treat. For cancer, Fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) and positron emission tomography (PET) procedures enable distinction between normal and cancerous cells, based on glucose consumption. Effects of chemotherapy are also monitored.

In treatment of cardiovascular disease, perfusion imaging is used on the heart to examine existence of coronary artery ailment, predict possible risk of advanced cardiac disease, and find out chances of cardiac death. Based on findings, physicians may use drug interventions or surgery, aimed at restoring blood flow. In neurological disorders, radiotracer procedures enable assessment of brain tumor and timely detection of recurrence. The approaches are essential in surgical treatment plans for seizure disorders, as well as diagnosis and classification of brain tumors.

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Applications of Nuclear Medicine: Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans

PET scans are essential during diagnosis and treatment of several ailments. For example, New England PET Imaging (2009) reported that PET enabled identification of seizure focus and provided advanced guide on placement of electrode. Additionally, Bao et al. (2021) stated that PET imaging helped to investigate and diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and monitor biological outcomes of agents used during therapy.

Nogami et al. (2014) also indicated that PET could detect 85% to 92% of primary lesions in patients with advanced cervical cancer. Additionally, Galldiks et al. (2019) reported the effectiveness of PET (with radiolabeled amino acids) in diagnosis of brain cancer. PET only failed in diagnosis of early-stage cervical cancer (Nogami et al., 2014). Again, PET scan results are highly accurate. According to New England PET Imaging (2009), for instance, follow-up tests confirmed that PET correctly detected seizure in the right temporal lobe.

Bao et al. (2021) also stated that PET scans aided differentiation of Alzheimer’s disease and non-Alzheimer’s disease dementia. Nogami et al. (2014) as well discussed that PET scans were more accurate than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) in identification of cancer.

Nuclear Medicine Therapy using Radio pharmaceuticals

Radiopharmaceuticals in nuclear medicine therapy are intended to deliver radiation to tumorous lesions in an attempt to control or cure the ailment (James et al., 2020). According to Sgouros (2019), the effectiveness of radiopharmaceutical therapy in reaching the tumor cells depends on the delivery of cytotoxic radiation without toxifying normal tissues.  James et al. (2020) explained that intravenous injection and chemotherapy are the main ways of administering radio pharmaceutical therapy. The body surface area and weight of a patient aid selection of the most appropriate method. Examples of pharmaceuticals include 131I for thyroid ablation, 90Y for liver cancer treatment, and 223Ra for treating bony metastases.