Magazine article USA TODAY

Taking Mystery out of Nuclear Medicine

Magazine article USA TODAY

Taking Mystery out of Nuclear Medicine

Article excerpt

Humor columnist Dave Barry once described nuclear medicine as "two words that do not go together at all." However, despite its ominous-sounding name, nuclear medicine is a valuable technology that is safer than the average X-ray, maintains Jan Winn, assistant professor of radiologic technology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. It allows health care experts unique glimpses inside a patient's body that they can not get through any other type of test.

Defined simply, nuclear medicine is a diagnostic tool, just as are X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. "The difference is that with nuclear medicine we are able to look at the physiology of the patient - how the organs and other tissues are functioning - as opposed to just seeing what the anatomy looks like, which is primarily what you get with ultrasound, X-rays, MRIs, etc."

To obtain this information, a substance known as a radioactive "tracer" is attached to a drug with an affinity for the area to be studied - the heart, brain, or liver, for instance. After the tracer and drug are injected into the patient, the diagnostic equipment follows the tracer through the body, giving vivid images of how that particular part is functioning. …

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