Nuclear medicine is the application of radioactive materials to the diagnosis and management of disease in humans. It is primarily a diagnostic specialty and one of the most challenging and exciting branches of medicine. Nuclear medicine has recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first introduction to the medical world. In this note, I will highlight some of the significant developments that have been introduced to the world of medicine by this newly born science.
The idea of using radioactive materials in human body was first suggested by Alexander Graham Bell in the early 20th century and is still valid and developing. Beginning in the 1980s until today, there has been rapid expansion in nuclear medicine techniques. High-speed computers have made the difference in the ability to image multiple radioactive drugs. The introduction of truly metabolic agents, such as radio labeled sugars, has enabled physicians to study cancer and heart disease in a way not previously available.
Patients today can have an assessment to know if their cancer has spread, stopped, or otherwise changed after the treatment. In patients with heart disease, new information is available that permits improvements in clinical management. Radiolabeled antibodies to colon cancer and prostate cancer are in routine clinical use to help in finding early recurrent disease. These same antibodies may be used for preoperative information as well. By using nuclear medicine technology, patients do not have to go under a discomforting surgery and deal with the costly surgery procedures. Thanks to nuclear medicine technologists, experiments are being done using antibodies that are labeled with radioactive materials in order to help us to treat cancer.
As we approach the 21st century, nuclear medicine is the heart of clinical procedures. Nuclear medicine helps us to image virtually every body organ system down to the molecular level. We continue to increase our knowledge of how the body works and improve our understanding of diseases and their treatment using new techniques. Nuclear medicine science answers physicians¡¦ questions from studying cases of children through old people, cases of injury to cancer and inherited to acquired metabolic diseases.