Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty involving the application of radioactive substances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

In nuclear medicine procedures, radionuclides are combined with other elements to form chemical compounds, or else combined with existing pharmaceutical compounds, to form radiopharmaceuticals. These radiopharmaceuticals, once administered to the patient, can localize to specific organs or cellular receptors. This property of radiopharmaceuticals allows nuclear medicine the ability to image the extent of a disease process in the body, based on the cellular function and physiology, rather than relying on physical changes in the tissue anatomy. In some diseases nuclear medicine studies can identify medical problems at an earlier stage than other diagnostic tests. Nuclear medicine, in a sense, is "radiology done inside out" or "endo-radiology" because it records radiation emitting from within the body rather than radiation that is generated by external sources like X-rays.

Treatment of diseased tissue, based on metabolism or uptake or binding of a particular ligand, may also be accomplished, similar to other areas of pharmacology. However, the treatment effects of radiopharmaceuticals rely on the tissue-destructive power of short-range ionizing radiation.

In the future nuclear medicine may provide added impetus to the field known as molecular medicine. As understanding of biological processes in the cells of living organism expands, specific probes can be developed to allow visualization, characterization, and quantification of biologic processes at the cellular and subcellular levels. Nuclear medicine is a possible specialty for adapting to the new discipline of molecular medicine, because of its emphasis on function and its utilization of imaging agents that are specific for a particular disease process.

Read more about Nuclear Medicine:  Interventional Nuclear Medicine, History, Source of Radionuclides, With Notes On A Few Radiopharmaceuticals, Radiation Dose

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