What are the Risks of Nuclear Imaging?

Nuclear imaging is a sophisticated and accurate diagnostic tool used to evaluate organ function. It is commonly used to diagnose, manage, treat, and prevent serious illnesses. While there are minimal risks associated with nuclear imaging, it is important to understand the potential risks and benefits of the procedure. Allergic reactions have been reported, but they are very rare and almost always mild.

All medical procedures performed on anyone, whether a child or an adult, carry some risk of injury. The risk of injury can be small or large depending on the type of activity being performed. In nuclear medicine, the radiation risk of routine nuclear medicine testing is generally perceived to be very small, but limited. The dose of ionizing radiation for these procedures is usually higher than the dose received from a common X-ray procedure.

There are always some possible risks from exposure to ionizing radiation in healthcare, but these procedures should be used when the health benefits outweigh these risks. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and states regulate the use of radioactive materials for nuclear medicine to ensure that patients, medical staff and the public are safe.

Before using any type of nuclear medicine procedure, it must be justified to ensure that the benefits of the procedures outweigh the risks to the patient. However, exposure to too much radiation can quickly damage organs or tissues, while exposure to any amount of radiation can increase the risk of cancer years after exposure. Image Gentlyexternal icon is a campaign that encourages medical facilities to use a “child-sized” amount of radioactive material when a child undergoes a nuclear medicine procedure. The best way to communicate radiation risk is for referring physicians to take into account the demographics, clinical presentation of the patient and any influence on the management of the patient as a result of the test in question. Patients should also be informed of the risks prior to the procedure and should be given the opportunity to discuss this matter in more detail with a trained person. Nuclear therapeutic procedures include radioactive iodine (I-13) therapy and radioimmunotherapy.

Radioimmunotherapy combines radiation therapy and the targeting capacity of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy mimics cellular activity in the body's immune system, so radiation is able to target affected areas very precisely. Therapeutic nuclear medicine is generally used for severe types of cancer and diseases affecting the thyroid gland. Radioactive tracers used in nuclear medicine are, in most cases, injected into a vein or given orally. These markers are not dyes or medications and have no side effects.

The amount of radiation a patient receives on a typical nuclear medicine scan tends to be very low. When you know the pros and cons of nuclear medicine scans, you can rest easy knowing that nuclear imaging is safe. While individual nuclear medicine professionals retain local responsibility and accountability, specialized societies have a clear role to play in assisting in the safe and efficient practice of nuclear medicine. Slovic's fundamental study in 1987 showed that the general public may have fundamentally different ideas about the risk derived from nuclear technology compared to experts in the field, even when nuclear technology was compared to daily activities which were quite risky in nature. In many ways, nuclear imaging tests are the most sophisticated and accurate diagnostic tests available. Thanks to their special training, the nuclear doctor can select the most appropriate examination for the patient's particular medical problem, thus avoiding any unnecessary exposure to radiation. There are no general rules for preparing for the nuclear medicine test, as each type of test has its own requirements.