Nuclear Medicine

Diagnostic and treatment capabilities with nuclear medicine expertise

The nuclear medicine subspecialists at Carolina Radiology perform and interpret a comprehensive range of nuclear medicine studies and procedures. Nuclear medicine is a term applied to a category of imaging methods that use small doses of radioactive materials—called radiopharmaceuticals—that work with special cameras and computerized image processing to visualize the inside of the body.

A key benefit of nuclear medicine procedures is they enable radiologists to examine more than static images of internal organs and tissues. These exams visualize certain functions and processes within the body, such as metabolism and circulation, as they occur over time. This can make diagnostic information available that is often not provided by other imaging methods.

Nuclear medicine procedures are also sometimes used as treatments for certain types of disorders.

Some examples of the most frequently used nuclear medicine procedures are:

  • Cardiac scans for such purposes as evaluating blood flow in the coronary arteries
  • Lung scans to detect problems with respiration and blood flow
  • Bone scans to evaluate fractures or detect disease such as infections or cancer
  • Brain scans to detect blood flow problems, tumors, cancer, or other abnormalities

Examinations of specific organs, such as the thyroid, kidneys, or digestive organs, to evaluate their function and detect signs of disease

Iodine-131 Therapy for Thyroid Disorders

A frequently-used procedure for treatment purposes is iodine-131 for an overactive thyroid or as part of a treatment course for some thyroid cancers. The procedure involves the injection of a radioactive form of iodine—called an isotope, identified as iodine-131. The thyroid gland absorbs iodine through its normal functioning, but the radioactivity of the iodine-131 isotope destroys some or all of the cells in the thyroid gland.

In patients with an overactive thyroid, iodine-131 therapy stops the production of excess thyroid hormones and relieves the effects of overactive thyroid, such as weight loss, irritability, or irregular heartbeat.  For thyroid cancer patients, the treatment is most frequently used to ablate (destroy) the small number of thyroid cells that remain after surgical removal of the thyroid, reducing the risk of cancer recurrence.

PET-CT Scans

PET-CT is a special type of nuclear medicine exam with an increasingly important range of diagnostic applications. It combines the key strengths of two imaging modalities—CT (computed tomography) and PET (positron emission tomography) to create 3D images with powerful diagnostic applications. See our PET-CT page for more information.