Health Check: Nuclear Medicine

There's a unique way doctors are gathering important information about patients. Information that otherwise wouldn't be available, require surgery or more expensive tests. In this month's Health Check, Serese Cole takes us to the Fremont Area Medical Center to show us how Nuclear Medicine is helping patients.

Stacey Lichtenberg has seen her fair share of doctors and hospitals. It started with her stubborn abdominal pain.

"At first they thought it was possibly an ulcer, so they did an ultrasound of my abdomen. Then they did a scope of my throat to see if I had ulcers in my throat," said Lichtenberg.

Test after test came back normal.

"You start to wonder if you're kind of making some things up. If you're not, you know, feeling as bad as you do feel because they can't find anything that's wrong," Lichtenberg added.

Dr. Carter Cook says Stacey was a prime candidate for a different kind of test - a Nuclear Medicine Scan. It helps doctors diagnose a problem - and come up with a plan for treating it.

The scan is simple. A patient is injected with a very small dose of radioactive material or tracer - which is tagged to a molecule. Then they're moved in for the exam.

"The patient is given time for that radiotracer and that molecule to make its ways within the body - to whatever organ or organ systems we're interested in. Then that energy, coming from the patient, that radioactive material, is collected by a camera, " said Dr. Cook.

Serese Cole, "The entire process takes 90 minutes. The patient lays here the entire time while these two cameras are constantly taking images."

The images helped Dr. Cook determine it was Stacey's Gall Bladder - causing her discomfort. She got the results in one day and had it removed.

"Afterwards it felt great - pretty much instantly, " said Lichtenberg.

Now Stacey's pain, worry and hospital-free.

Nuclear Medicine Scans can help doctors diagnose many conditions - including cancers, injuries and infections. They can also show how organs like your heart and lungs are working. As for the radioactive material, most scans use the same or less amount of radiation as a conventional X-ray.

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