Nuclear Medicine at UPMC

UPMC performs medical-nuclear diagnostic tests with the use of state-of-the-art equipment and radiopharmaceuticals, all fully compliant with current regulations, keeping patient safety paramount. Medical nuclear diagnostics uses radiopharmaceuticals to visualize the structure and functionality of organs and tissues to help our doctors make accurate diagnoses.

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UPMC offers nuclear medicine services in the following facility:

What Is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the scientific discipline that makes use of radioactive substances for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. It uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, to examine the function and structure of organs.

In particular, nuclear medicine uses the technique of imaging. This is the method of analysis that allows the production of images through the detection of radiation, which comes from the parts of the body to which the radioactive tracer has been administered. The images are digitally generated and stored, and then transferred to a doctor of nuclear medicine, who interprets them for the purpose of diagnosis.

It should be emphasized that the radioactive substances used in this type of examination are not harmful to patients. Some people, in fact, may worry about hearing the word "radioactive." However, the tracers introduced into the body, usually by intravenous injection, do not have any kind of side effects. In addition, in this type of examination, the level of radiation emitted tends to be very low. After the radiopharmaceutical has been administered and absorbed into the body tissue, the body emits radiation, which is detected by a special tool.

The most common instrumentation used in a nuclear medicine exam is the "gamma-camera." This procedure captures data from a patient who lies still during the procedure. Once the gamma-camera has detected the radiation, the digital signals are transmitted to a computer. There they are stored and made available to the doctor.

Imaging used in nuclear medicine analyzes the function of organs and tissues. Otherwise, diagnostic X-rays are mainly used to visualize the anatomy of the body.

Nuclear Medicine Services at UPMC

Nuclear medicine services that are available to patients at UPMC include:

  • Thyroid scintigraphy.
  • Scintigraphy of parathyroids.
  • Whole body scintigraphy.
  • Polyphasic segmental bone scintigraphy.
  • Sequential renal scintigraphy.
  • Perfusive pulmonary scintigraphy.
  • Global body scintigraphy with immunological and receptor tracers (Octreoscan).
  • Myocardial tomoscintigraphy SPECT of perfusion at rest and after stimulus.
  • Myocardial scintigraphy for the study of vitality.
  • Sequential hepatobiliary scintigraphy.
  • Meckel's diverticulum research.

Scintigraphy is a diagnostic test that produces images similar to those of plates obtained with the use of X-rays. Scintigraphic methods are safe and provide information about the patient's state of health and the possible development of a disease. The duration of the exam may vary. Typically, scans last between 30 and 60 minutes. Some additional time will be needed for the tracer to be absorbed by the body – a time that can vary from a few minutes to a few hours. Some nuclear medicine exams involve the need to undergo scintigraphy for several days in a row.

Who Should Avail of Nuclear Medicine at UPMC?

Doctors use nuclear medicine procedures to observe what happens, at the cellular level, in vital organs and other parts of the body. There are several conditions that may require a detailed nuclear medicine examination. These include heart conditions, lung and respiratory dysfunction, infections, and arthritis. Nuclear medicine is also useful to check the state of the bones following fractures.

In addition, the scintigraphic examination determines the stage of a tumor, both in adults and children. It is also used to investigate any abnormalities in people who have seizures, memory loss and blood flow problems to the brain.

The extent of the radiation with which patients are treated is so modest that the scintigraphic treatment, if necessary, can be repeated even two days in a row. It can also be used for paediatric cases.

Our equipment quality control program is guaranteed and certified and is managed by our specialized staff of medical radiology technicians.

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