Solving Medical Mysteries

patient getting an ultrasound test

With Nuclear Medicine

At first glance, nuclear medicine might seem like an oxymoron to those not familiar with the amazing medical advances that have come from working with controlled, low doses of radioactive substances. However, the field of nuclear medicine is used every day, including right here in Flagstaff, to help diagnose and treat various illnesses and health problems.

At Northern Arizona Radiology, specially trained physicians (radiologists) work with imaging technology such as X-rays and nuclear imaging to get a better look at what’s really going on inside a patient’s body. Unlike X-rays, which are basically images of the body from the outside looking in (X-rays passing through the body from an outside source), nuclear imaging views part of the body from the inside looking out, with imaging equipment outside the body picking up traces of radioactive substances from inside the body.

One specialized piece of nuclear imaging equipment used at Northern Arizona Radiology is called the gamma camera. Dating back to the 1950’s, this now highly advanced device can produce pictures of amazing clarity, helping physicians solve medical mysteries by giving them a better look at organs – and the molecular activities going on within them – than ever before.

“The gamma camera specifically, and nuclear imaging in general, provides critical diagnostic information for physicians by detecting a variety of cancers, breast lesions, heart disease and neurological conditions in addition to organ function,” said Edward P. Herman, M.D., a radiologist at Northern Arizona Radiology.

Diagnostic imaging procedures performed with the gamma camera include bone scans, thyroid function testing, lymph node imaging, and kidney and gallbladder scans. According to Herman, advances in nuclear imaging have enabled an increasing number of procedures to be done on an outpatient basis, avoiding hospital admission.

Radiologists appreciate the camera’s full range of motion, which enables it to be moved in practically any position around the patient. Patients love the open design, which is much more comfortable and can accommodate a wide range of patient sizes and mobility.

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