Nuclear medicine primer


During your week in the Radiology Department, you will spend half a day in the Nuclear Medicine or Radionclide Imaging (RNI) area. This website is designed for the third year medical students who are spending a week in Radiology, to give you some background information about RNI, so that you can make the most of your time here.

RNI makes use of radiopharmaceuticals to map physiological processes in the body. These radiopharmaceutical tracers are injected, inhaled or ingested and then enter a physiological or pathophysiological pathway. As they do so, they emit gamma rays which are detected by a gamma camera to produce an image of the distribution of the tracer in the patient’s body.  The image typically contains both anatomical and physiological information.  For example, in the bone scintigraphy examination shown above right, the anatomy is obvious in the depiction of the skeleton and altered physiology is apparent in the increased osteoblastic activity in the mandible which is affected by Paget’s disease.

This approach differs slightly from radiography or computed tomography, in which an external radiation source (an x-ray tube) produces x-rays that are transmitted through the body onto a detector to produce an anatomical image.

In the following pages, you will learn how radiopharmaceuticals are made in the department each morning, how the gamma cameras work and how we ensure the safety of patients and staff when dealing with radiation.  You will also be introduced to the range of procedures that we perform, with case examples to illustrate their clinical relevance in an era when all imaging modalities are advancing rapidly.


Welcome to the nuclear medicine area