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Modalities - Nuclear Medicine Imaging 23 October 2017

The Nuclear Medicine Department performs scans and tests which look at how different parts of the body function. About half of scans that are performed are bone scans and these are required for a number of reasons including looking for difficult to detect fractures, loose joint replacements, rheumatology assessments, as well as to exclude secondary tumours after a cancer diagnosis.

Some of the other scans performed include lung scans to look for blood clots (pulmonary emboli), kidney scans to see how the kidneys are functioning or draining, sentinel node scans to show lymph drainage of a tumour prior to surgery, white cell scans to look for infections, brain scans to distinguish between Parkinson's Syndrome or essential tremor, parathyroid & thyroid scans to look for cysts and lumps, as well as heart scans to look at the blood supply to the heart muscle in those suffering from angina (chest pains), plus many others.

Most scans require the administration of a small injection, similar to a blood test, to introduce a scanning agent. Different scanning agents enable us to scan different parts of the body, and different scans have different delay times. Some scans require you to be scanned immediately after the injection, others after 2, 3, 4, 24 or even 48 hours depending what scan the Doctor or Consultant has asked us to perform.

The scanning agent that is administered contains Gamma Rays, which is a different form of radiation to X-Rays. Gamma rays are produced from the nucleus of the atom, rather than X-rays which are produced from the shells surrounding the atom. It is the Gamma Rays that have been injected that are emitted by the body, and it is the distribution pattern of these emissions that are detected by the scanning camera (called a Gamma Camera), and this information is computed into an image for the Consultant Radiologist to report on.

There are two Gamma Cameras at the Heartlands Hospital, one is a single headed Toshiba Gamma Camera, and a state of the art dual headed Siemens Gamma Camera with a CT attachment that is used to localise areas of interest on the images, and also to provide attenuation correction for some of the heart scans performed. There is also a dual headed Siemens Gamma Camera at Good Hope Hospital (without the CT attachment). A dedicated, small team of specialist trained Radiographers and Technologists operate and run the scanners, and the teams liaise with each other to provide an effective and efficient service for the patients.

Between the two hospitals, approximately 7300 scans and tests are performed each year.

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