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What is Nuclear Medicine?

With the advancement of science and technology, new methods of addressing challenging ailments evolve. One such modern means of diagnosing and treating diseases is by using the properties of radioactive nuclides. This article tries to gain further insight on the medical branch nuclear medicine.

Nuclear Medicine

What is Nuclear Medicine – The Basics:
Matter is made up of molecules and atoms. These building blocks are in turn made up of fundamental particles electrons, protons and neutrons. The particles protons and neutrons reside in the center of any atom known as the nucleus. However, electrons revolve around the nucleus.

A basic property of these particles is their charge. While the like charges repel each other, unlike charges attract. Owing to this very basic premise of Physics, the nucleus requires to possess a lot of energy known as binding energy in order to keep like charged protons in tact inside the volume of the nucleus.

In situations where the nucleus does not posses enough binding energy, the constituents of the nucleus come out of it in the form of alpha particles, beta particles or gamma rays. This phenomenon is known as radioactive decay. Those atoms which have very less binding energy and very less stability are called radio nuclides.

There are natural radio nuclides and atoms can be made to lose their stability and become radio nuclides artificially.

What is Nuclear Medicine (NM)?
This branch of medicine utilizes the radioactivity phenomenon and uses natural and artificial radio nuclides for identifying medical problems. The role of radiopharmaceuticals in NM is of central important. These chemicals are used as tracers in finding and providing remedy to ailments.

When these compounds are injected into the body, they get accumulated at specific sites of the body and send signals in the form of emitting particles or energy. The body responds in a characteristic manner to a foreign substance like tracer, when it is in the diseased state.

Different tracers are developed to take pictures of the organs and other locations of interest in the body under different pathological states. Powerful devices are available which scan the signals given the tracers for creating images of the sites of interest.

What is Nuclear Medicine – Benefits:
The state of the organ where the tracers accumulate is revealed very clearly allowing the health care professionals device appropriate approach of remedy. The doctors need not rely on the physiological changes at the sites of interest in order to learn more about developments there.

The radiation emitted by the tracers in the body travel for very small distances before being detected by external scanning devices. In this way, the chances of any harm caused to the surrounding healthy tissues are very less. Energetic particles like alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays emitted by radiopharmaceuticals can damage the tissues directly or cause ionization.

Though the diagnostic techniques involving nuclear medicine are carried out in outpatient procedures, it requires certain amount of preparation prior to undergoing them. Consultation with the professionals who conduct these tests is very important to ensure optimal benefits from these methods.

It is generally believed that even small amount of dosage of radioactive substances in the body present the risk of developing cancer. As a result, diagnose and treatment of diseases involving radio nuclides must be carried out under medical supervision of the health care professionals.

Career in Nuclear Medicine:
In order to pursue this field of medicine as career in the United States, an individual has to be a graduate in Physiology first. The following are the ways for obtaining certification from the American Board of Nuclear Medicine (ABNM):

  • One year training in NM after completing accredited radiology residency course.
  • Two years of training is required if the person completes clinical residency.
  • Three years of training is required if the individual completes preparatory post-doctoral training of one year duration.

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