What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty that utilizes radioisotopes for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment. It is considered as a branch similar to radiology. Radioisotopes are nothing but simple substances like iodine, fluorine (which are normally present in the human body) that after some physico-chemical modification can be applied for medicinal use. This specialty has been in use for the management of common and rare medical conditions since 1950s. However, being a relatively costlier and advanced technology, it was not widely available in the Indian subcontinent. In the earlier times, the applications were limited; however with increase in new inventions and better understanding of the disease processes, nuclear medicine now has become an integral part of the routine work-up and management of many diseases. 

What are the components of nuclear medicine?

The specialty encompasses various imaging investigations like gamma imaging (with SPECT/CT), hybrid PET/CT and therapeutic applications like treating thyroid diseases, better palliative therapy of some cancers, palliation of bone pain in cancer patients, joint problems etc.

Gamma imaging includes bone scan, renal scan, liver scan, cardiac scan etc. A brief use of these investigations is as follows:

Bone scan

• Detection of metastases in cancer

• Diagnosing osteomyelitis

Renal scan:

• Detection of scar following pyelonephritis

• Diagnosing obstruction in hydronephrotic kidneys

Liver scan:

• Diagnosing the cause of jaundice in young infants

• To identify the site of bile leak following surgery, trauma etc,

Cardiac scan:

• In chest pain due to MI, angina - To detect the extent of myocardium in the heart that can be improved after by-pass or Angio-stent.

• To calculate the contractile function of heart

PET/CT imaging is an investigation in these days without which many oncologic, cardiac, neurologic and infectious diseases, cannot be diagnosed properly resulting in incomplete treatment.

What are the advantages of nuclear medicine?

The specialty uses the concept of target-based approach for its investigative and therapeutic applications. Unlike many other modalities, the side effects and complications arising from the procedures are very minimal. Because of these characteristics, the delivery of a consistent health care is possible. Patient compliance is also extremely good and they prefer to and volunteer for necessary follow-up and research studies.

What is the need for nuclear medicine?

For the most of the indications as discussed previously, no other modality can give a cost-effective and accurate information as nuclear medicine. This has been tested with time.

Due to unavailability of this department, many patients remain under-treated and at times over-treated due to the inadequate information.

Next to cardiac problems, cancer of many organ systems is becoming the leading cause of mortality in our country and worldwide. As commonly known the cancer is classified into four stages. Stage IV and in some cancers stage III diseases are inoperable and palliative care with good quality chemo-radiotherapy is needed.

Being a whole body imaging modality with advanced features, PET/CT (in comparison to other existing facilities like MRI, CT, etc.) can effectively diagnose the stage of the cancer avoiding unnecessary surgeries. This is because PET/CT can accurately diagnose the metastases at an early time-point. Similarly after treatment is initiated, the response to therapy can also be effectively monitored by this modality.

Thyroid diseases are very commonly seen India. Nuclear medicine based therapy can offer the best cure for the commonest thyroid problems existing in the community. Similarly, many other cancers can be treated palliatively by nuclear medicine. The scope for growth in patient health care as well as economy is wide for nuclear medicine and is growing day-by-day.

Idea & Need to incorporate nuclear medicine as a specialty department in the Bharat Scans Private Limited:

Bharat Scans Private Limited is one of the best private diagnostic centres in our country that affords medical diagnostics at international standards. Being a teaching institute also, the institute incorporated this advanced specialty in January 2008 to complement and complete its ever-expanding medical diagnostics. The primary aim of this incorporation of Nuclear medicine is that Bharat Scans can help to carry out educational and health care improvement in a self-sustaining manner and keep up its reputation of service to the society. Unlike North India, very few centres in south India offer nuclear medicine services. This is partly due to the relatively higher cost input for establishing nuclear medicine facility. Because of this many people are not receiving quality treatment. By establishing this specialty, Bharat Scans has helped in making essential and quality health care affordable to the general public. In today’s healthcare, no oncology / cardiology set up is complete without nuclear medicine facilities.

High quality research work in oncology, cardiology and many other fields that necessitates a wholesome approach requires nuclear medicine to be a part of the research. Scientific journals from different medical branches publish papers that are based on gamma imaging, PET/CT and/or therapeutic nuclear medicine. The reputed nuclear medicine journals include Journal of Nuclear Medicine (JNM), European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Indian Journal of Nuclear Medicine, Annals of Nuclear Medicine, etc. Of these JNM is the highest ranked medical imaging journal with an impact factor of 6.38 which is the best in radiology and far higher than other medical and surgical specialties. This is because clinicians in these days need to update their medical knowledge for their daily practice and general practitioners and specialists regularly read these journals.

Nuclear Medicine Facilities at Bharat Nuclear Scans

Diagnostic nuclear medicine

Advanced SPECT/CT

Advanced 16 slice PET/CT

Therapeutic nuclear medicine

Radioiodine treatment for Thyroid Goitre and Graves’ disease