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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a type of medical imaging that provides detailed pictures of what's happening inside the body at the molecular and cellular level. Molecular imaging is a type of nuclear medicine that uses small amounts of radioactive material (radiotracer) to track molecular activity in the body. Other types include molecular ultrasound and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which measure chemical levels in the body without the use of an imaging agent.

Reston Hospital Center offers nuclear medicine as another advanced tool for pinpointing and diagnosing a number of medical conditions, sometimes in combination with single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT) and other imaging technology.

How You Benefit

Molecular imaging has been referred to as the biology of disease in real time. Unlike other diagnostic imaging methods, such as X-rays, computed tomography and ultrasound, which create anatomical pictures, molecular imaging allows doctors to see exactly how the body is functioning and to measure chemical and biological processes in real time. These unique insights allow doctors to detect problems in the earliest stages of a disease, often well before structural changes can be seen on CT and MRI, and to personalize your care based on these discoveries.

Nuclear medicine and molecular imaging procedures, which are noninvasive, safe and painless, are used to diagnose and treat cancer such as thyroid, lymphoma and bone metastasis. In some cases, nuclear medicine can be used in place of a stem cell transplant for lymphoma. It is also used in diagnosing and treating:

  • Heart disease
  • Brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Lung disorders
  • Bone disorders
  • Kidney and thyroid disorders

What to Expect

Your doctor or nuclear medicine technologist will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your procedure or treatment, depending on the type of molecular imaging prescribed for you.