Is Nuclear Medicine Safer Than CT Scans?

Nuclear medicine procedures are among the safest imaging tests available, with radiation exposure comparable to or often lower than that of a diagnostic x-ray. Patients only receive an extremely small amount of a radiopharmaceutical, just enough to provide enough diagnostic information. So, the answer to the question is yes, nuclear medicine tests are safe. We carefully select the radiotracer and radiation dose to ensure minimum radiation exposure and maximum accuracy.

Nuclear medicine and x-ray tests are often complementary and provide different information that, together, makes the diagnosis safer. Nuclear medicine is very sensitive and can often identify diseases and abnormalities earlier than other testing methods, allowing for earlier treatments and better prognoses. Computed tomography (CT) and nuclear imaging have revolutionized diagnosis and treatment, almost eliminating the need for previously common exploratory surgeries and many other invasive and potentially risky procedures. A gamma camera is a machine that can detect and create images from the very small amounts of ionizing radiation emitted by patients undergoing a nuclear medicine study.

Most of the increased exposure in the United States is due to CT scans and nuclear imaging, which require larger doses of radiation than traditional x-rays. Technetium 99m MDP is used for nuclear bone scintigraphy, while Technetium 99m MAG3 is used for nuclear renal scintigraphy. If you're considering a nuclear medicine test, contact your doctor's office and ask them to contact nuclear medicine programmers to obtain appropriate documentation for the exam. Nuclear medicine uses a specially designed radiopharmaceutical (a radioisotope attached to a specific drug product) that is specifically delivered to the patient's area of concern.

Nuclear medicine studies are very good at showing how an organ system works and often complement other research and imaging studies.