Nuclear Medicine

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear Medicine Equipment
Nuclear Medicine Equipment
Nuclear Medicine is a medical specialty that diagnoses and treats diseases. Nuclear Medicine shows how organs or body systems work, so it may detect disease earlier than other types of imaging exams.

The name "Nuclear Medicine" refers to a small amount of radioactive material (radioisotope) that is combined with medicine (pharmaceutical) to form a radiopharmaceutical. Sometimes it is also called a tracer. Nuclear Medicine uses different types of radiopharmaceuticals for different exams.

The radiopharmaceutical, or tracer, emits radiation that is detected by a gamma camera. Gamma cameras do not produce radiation, they detect and image radiation. There is no harm to the patient from the gamma camera.

Radiopharmaceuticals (tracers) are given by mouth, by injection, or are inhaled.

The pharmaceutical or medicine portion of the tracer is designed to travel to a particular organ or area of the body. The radioactive portion is carried along with the pharmaceutical so it can be seen by our gamma camera.

Radiopharmaceuticals are carefully tested. The risk of side effects is extremely small. The radioactivity of a radiopharmaceutical is carefully selected by the nuclear medicine physician to be safe.

Most radiopharmaceuticals used in Nuclear Medicine studies give less radiation exposure than a day at the beach.

What types of procedures are performed in Nuclear Medicine?

At the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, we perform studies of the kidneys, brain, gastrointestinal tract, heart, bones, lungs, and thyroid, as well as other studies to evaluate for infection and tumors.

We also treat patients with overactive thyroids and those with a variety of cancers.

Click below for specific information on some of the procedures we perform:

Due to the wide variety of procedures performed, instructions for all procedures are not provided here. If there are any questions about a procedure not listed above, please call the Nuclear Medicine Department at 215-590-2592 to receive instructions.

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CHOP is recognized by the American College of Radiology’s Nuclear Medicine Accreditation Program for our commitment to safe imaging practices in nuclear medicine.