Nuclear Medicine & PET

MRPC Nuclear Medicine radiologists are specialists in the use of radiopharmaceuticals for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of conditions. In contrast to other areas of radiology which focus on anatomic imaging, nuclear medicine uses the administration of small amounts of radioactive tracers to study body physiology. Cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, thyroid, hepatobiliary and musculoskeletal systems can be imaged to provide valuable functional information. Positron emission tomography (PET) is an increasingly important nuclear medicine imaging modality. PET is now widely accepted as the most effective imaging modality for most cancer patients, used both for initial evaluation as well as treatment monitoring.

Nuclear medicine is a branch of medicine and medical imaging that uses the nuclear properties of matter in diagnosis and therapy. Many procedures in nuclear medicine use radionuclides, or pharmaceuticals that have been labeled with radionuclides (radiopharmaceuticals). In diagnosis, radioactive substances are administered to patients and the radiation emitted is measured. The majority of these diagnostic tests involve the formation of an image using a gamma camera. Imaging may also be referred to as radionuclide imaging or nuclear scintigraphy. Other diagnostic tests use probes to acquire measurements from parts of the body, or counters for the measurement of samples taken from the patient. In therapy, radionuclides are administered to treat disease or provide palliative pain relief. For example, administration of Iodine-131 is often used for the treatment of thyrotoxicosis and thyroid cancer.

Nuclear medicine imaging tests differ from most other imaging modalities in that the tests primarily show the physiological function of the system being investigated as opposed to the anatomy. In some centers, the nuclear medicine images can be superimposed on images from modalities such as CT or MRI to highlight which part of the body the radiopharmaceutical is concentrated in. This practice is often referred to as image fusion.

Nuclear medicine diagnostic tests are provided within the Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare System and interpreted by MRPC Nuclear Medicine radiologists.


M. Teresa Brooks, M.D.
Randall A. Davis, M.D.
W. Alan Graves, M.D.
James S. Hausmann, M.D.
Eric B. Hutchins, M.D.