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Nuclear Medicine at University of Colorado Hospital

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Radiology - Nuclear Medicine

Imaging techniques such as x-rays, MRI and CT scans show images of the structure of the body.

Nuclear medicine, a subspecialty within the field of radiology, gives doctors another way of looking inside the body. These techniques, such as PET, focus on the organs and metabolic functions.

Nuclear medicine scans can help diagnose disease, tumors, infection and other problems.

How does Nuclear Medicine work?

Images using nuclear medicine technology are developed based on the detection of energy given off by a small amount of radioactive substance either swallowed or injected into the patient's body.

Generally, the amount of radiation is similar to the amount in a standard x-ray. As the substance makes its way through the body, it is absorbed by the organs and tissue and gives off special rays called gamma rays.

An organ that is diseased or functioning poorly gives off a different energy than a healthy organ. The nuclear medicine scan “reads” this energy with a special gamma camera and produces an image that doesn’t just show what the organ looks like, but how it is functioning.

What is a PET/CT Scan?

Positron Emission Tomography/Computerized Tomography (PET/CT) is an imaging test that produces high resolution pictures of the body’s functions and structures.

 

PET/CT uses "nuclear medicine" technology. This means that a small, safe amount of a radioactive isotope with a really short life (or a radioactive sugar solution) is used. The isotope is injected into your arm and flows through your body. This isotope is what the PET/CT machine reads.

 

A standard CT scan mainly shows the body’s anatomy such as organs and body structure. A PET scan shows biological functions such as metabolism. By combining these two types of images, doctors are better able to see abnormalities and identify cancerheart disease and brain disorders.

 

PET/CT Scans and Cancer

PET/CT is believed to be the most accurate imaging test available to evaluate a number of different kinds of cancer including:

  • lung cancer
  • colon cancer
  • breast cancer
  • skin cancer
  • lymphoma
  • head and neck cancer
  • esophageal cancer

 

PET/CT is approximately 90% accurate in detecting many of these cancer types. Early diagnosis is crucial when it comes to cancer. If found early, it can often be cured. A PET/CT scan can help doctors decide on the best method of treatment.

 

PET/CT Scans and Brain Disorders

PET/CT is proving to be valuable in evaluating brain disorders such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke evaluation
  • Brain Tumors

 

PET/CT is able to show abnormalities of the brain that may go undetected on an MRI or CT alone.

 

PET/CT Scans and Heart Disease

PET/CT may be used to detect coronary heart disease and help evaluate the state of the heart before surgery or after an attack.

How is a PET/CT Scan Used?

Brain Disorders

  • Dementia – detects Alzheimer’s and other dementia
  • Epilepsy – determines the precise location for surgery
  • Parkinson’s – diagnoses movement disorders

 

Cancer

PET/CT

PET/CT is believed to be the most accurate imaging test available to evaluate a number of different kinds of cancer, including:

  • lung cancer
  • colon cancer
  • breast cancer
  • skin cancer
  • lymphoma
  • head and neck cancer
  • esophageal cancer

 

PET/CT is roughly 90% accurate in detecting many of these cancer types. Early diagnosis is crucial when it comes to cancer. If found early, it can often be cured. A PET/CT scan can help doctors decide on the best method of treatment.

 

Heart Disease

  • Determine what heart tissue is still viable
  • Predict success of angioplasty (balloon) by-pass surgery

 

Bone Imaging

Make an appointment at (720) 848-1200

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