June 14, 2022
“We have implemented a hospitalization area for our Nuclear Medicine service, in order to provide comprehensive care to our patients. Thus, this specialty will not only have a key role in the diagnosis of several diseases, but also patients will have a comfortable and safe environment for their therapies. In this new area, for example, radioactive iodine therapies will be performed on patients with post-surgery or recurrent differentiated thyroid cancer,” says Dr. Shirley Alarcón, head of the Nuclear Medicine Service at our institution.
What is nuclear medicine?
It is a diagnostic and therapeutic medical specialty that studies the functionality of tissues and organs, and is complementary to other radiological methods. Cardiology, oncology, endocrinology, nephrology, gastroenterology, or pediatrics are some of the specialties that most demand nuclear medicine studies.
How are nuclear medicine studies carried out?
Specific radioactive substances are used for each tissue, generally administered intravenously and that emit small amounts of radiation to be detected by special equipment called a gamma camera, which uses software to create diagnostic images.
What diagnostic tests does this specialty offer?
In oncology. Bone scintigraphy allows an early diagnosis of metastases (the spread of cancer) when they reach the bones. It is highly appreciated by specialists in the oncology field for the evaluation of tumors, mainly those of the breast, prostate, lung, digestive tract and others.
Myocardial perfusion studies. This study is very valuable for cases of hypertension, diabetes and increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, in patients at risk of developing angina and heart attacks that can be fatal.
Thyroid studies. Nuclear medicine has thyroid scintigraphy, a functional study of the thyroid that facilitates a morpho-functional evaluation and is complemented by hormonal studies carried out in the clinical laboratory, to quantify hormonal imbalance.
Treatment with radioactive substances (Iodine-131). When the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), treatment is usually given with pills. In some cases, this treatment does not work and the patient is referred to nuclear medicine to receive a therapeutic dose of Iodine 131.
Functional evaluation of the kidneys: Renal scintigraphy is a non-invasive functional study. It is usually performed in children (due to repeated infections) or in adults (patients with kidney damage due to different long-term diseases), to assess the functionality of the kidneys.
Dr. Shirley Alarcón
Head of the Nuclear Medicine Service at our institution