What is Radionuclide Imaging or Nuclear Medicine Imaging?

Nuclear medicine imaging (NMN) or radionuclide imaging is a valuable tool for diagnosis. It is used to help find cancers, heart disease, gastrointestinal, endocrine, neurological disorders, and other problems. Because tools using nuclear medicine can pinpoint molecular activity in the body, it can find disease early, when it is most easily treated.

This tool shows both the anatomy of an organ or body part, and how it functions. Information about organ function allows this exam to find problems much sooner than other imaging exams.

For this test, urologists inject a radioisotope "tracer" into the kidney system. The tracer is a molecule that has a radioactive atom or "tag" attached. The tags most often used are iodine-123 or 131, or technetium. They can be followed through the kidney system with special nuclear detectors. A series of X-ray images of the kidneys are then collected to see blood flow and function.

Radionuclide imaging is thought of as safe since there are no allergic risks. Also, since the radioisotope tracer gives off less radiation than an X-ray, this test is seen as safer than an X-ray.