A nuclear medicine examination involves an injection of a radioisotope (radiopharmaceutical) into the bloodstream. Special cameras are used to detect signals given off by the radioisotope. Specially trained technologists use sophisticated computers to analyze this data to provide valuable information about the human body.
As a diagnostic tool, nuclear medicine is unique because it evaluates physiological function rather than anatomical structure. So, for example, nuclear medicine scans enable SJRA physicians to determine how much heart tissue is still alive after a heart attack, or whether a kidney is operating as an effective filter, even when there are no detectable changes in organ appearance.
A nuclear medicine examination carries no greater risk than a standard x-ray procedure. It requires only very small doses of radiation, often less than a conventional x-ray procedure.