About Nuclear Medicine Technology

Welcome to the information session on the Master of
Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology. I am Krystle Glasgow. I am the Clinical Coordinator for the
program, and I am going to talk to you about what nuclear medicine is, the program pre-requisites, the application
process, and much more. Let me start with: What is nuclear medicine? Nuclear Medicine is a specialty of radiology. The difference between nuclear medicine and other imaging
modalities, such as ultrasound, traditional x-ray, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, is that all the
other imaging techniques look at anatomy or simulated
physiology. Nuclear Medicine creates images of physiologic processes
and physiology in the body. Therefore it is unique in what information it can provide to
physicians who are trying to determine what is happening
in the body. For instance, nuclear medicine can look at the kidneys and
determine left versus right kidney function and determine
something called an effective renal plasma flow or ERPF. This information is important to determine how well the
kidneys are functioning. The imaging is done over 30 minutes beginning after the
injection of a radiopharmaceutical. The radiopharmaceutical is designed to travel to the kidneys
in the body, be uptaken, processed and eliminated in urine,
and then end up in the bladder. This entire process can be visualized using nuclear medicine
imaging. Physical blockages can be seen on the image if someone
has a kidney stone, and the left versus right kidney function
can then be quantified. Nuclear medicine became a medical specialty after Word
War II – about 70 years ago. Approximately 15-18 million nuclear medicine procedures are
performed annually for a variety of conditions in patients of all
ages. There are over 100 different nuclear medicine procedures for
every organ system in the body. So, What is a radiopharmaceutical? A radiopharmaceutical is a drug that is organ specific and is
tagged to a radioactive element. The radioactive element gives off gamma rays that our
cameras can detect and convert into an image. One point to understand is that our cameras are really very
large radiation detectors that are very sensitive. They do not emit anything and only pick up what is coming
from the patient. Most radiopharmaceuticals are administered by giving an
injection in a vein of the arm. Other examples of ways to get these agents into the body
include inhalation for a lung scan and ingestion of a radioactive egg sandwich in the case of a gastric emptying
study. The amount of radiation used is small and considered to be at
a safe level. Any risk associated with the radiation used is far outweighed
by the benefit of the information the physician will get from
the exam. Nuclear medicine also includes some radiation therapy, but
we are not radiation therapists which is a discipline in itself. If a radiation therapy treatment involves a liquid or a semi-
liquid source (such as nanoparticles) then it falls under the nuclear medicine umbrella because we know how to deal with
and use liquid radiation sources. This part of our profession is expanding due to new combined
diagnostic and therapy agents called “Theranostics”. What is a scintillation gamma camera? It is a radiation
detector used to image the location of the radiopharmaceutical in the body. The radiation, in the form of gamma rays, is detected by the
camera as it is emitted from the patient and formed into a
picture with the aid of a computer. As seen here, the gamma camera can be in various
configurations and is rather large. The camera pictured here is two headed and allows for
anterior and posterior views to be obtained at the same time. In addition, this camera can rotate around the patient to
produce a 3-D image of the organ of interest, which can be basically any organ in the body, such as the brain, lung,
bone, kidneys, liver, heart, and more. As previously mentioned, the nuclear medicine test
documents organ function and structure. It can identify a problem very early in the course of a disease,
allowing earlier treatment. It may show that surgery is indicated, or that surgery is not
necessary. For nuclear medicine testing, the benefits far outweigh the
small amount of risk associated with receiving radioactivity. The image here is a bone scan, and the areas that are
“hotter”, or brighter, show more concentration of our radiopharmaceutical in that part of the bone tissue indicating
possible cancer, trauma or infection of the bone. A few examples of what nuclear medicine can look at and
possibly treat are: diagnosing coronary artery disease, measuring kidney function, identifying the spread of cancer or
evaluate a cancer therapy, identifying a stress fracture, diagnosing a blood clot in the lung, treating an overactive
thyroid gland, killing cancer cells with radioactive antibodies,
and much more. Here is an example of a nuclear cardiology exam. The heart
is displayed in 3 views taken from a 3-D image. This is an example of a normal image. We are looking at the
blood perfusion of the heart muscle and this study is done in
two parts. One part is done at rest and the other while the heart is being
stressed. The stress portion is done either by having the patient walk
on a treadmill, which gradually increases in both speed and height, or, if the patient is unable to walk, the stress is
simulated by giving a drug that will simulate exercise and
stress on the heart. As you can see, the images look like doughnuts and
horseshoes. The parts or sets of images are compared to see if there is a
difference between the set of images (or as we like to tell our students, if there are bites out of the doughnuts or missing
pieces of the horseshoes). Bites or missing portions could indicate heart disease and
specifically that blood flow is not reaching the heart muscle either under stress conditions or under both stress and rest. This information would be important in determining if a patient
needs to have a cardiac catherization. The cardiac catherization usually requires a hospital stay. However, our study may indicate that this is not necessary
and is regularly used as a screening tool to determine if cardiac catherization is necessary for that patient. Here we see a kidney scan. As you can see the kidneys gradually uptake the
radiopharmaceutical, process it, and then the
radiopharmaceutical follows the urine into the bladder which is what is showing up on the bottom of the frame in the later
images. These are sequential images over a 24 minute timeframe that
are compiled into 3 minute frames each. We can then go back and draw regions of interest around the
left and right kidneys and produce a graph of how long each kidney took to process our radiopharmaceutical. This study can provide a lot of useful information for a number
of renal, or kidney, conditions. We even do this scan on healthy individuals who are donating
their kidney for a renal transplant patient. The kidney that is functioning best will remain with the donor
and the other kidney will be harvested for the transplant. This is a another unique type of study that is part of nuclear
medicine. Using a radioactive form of glucose and a Positron Emission
Tomography or PET agent, we can “see” a large lung mass that is cancerous in this image which gets smaller after
therapy. Other imaging techniques would only be able to see the
mass and not be able to tell if it is “active”, or uptaking anything, which would indicate a cancerous mass. Our technology can “see” this as part of the study and provide
useful evaluation of whether or not a treatment is working to
help cure cancer. What does a nuclear medicine technologist do? We prepare the patient, administer the radioactive drug,
maintain & operate the gamma camera, as well as other equipment, collect & prepare images & other patient data, and use a
computer to process clinical data. Why Nuclear Medicine Technology? You will have direct patient contact & interaction. There are
clinical rotations were you will be working side by side with technologists and gain practical experience. There is always something new in our field: new
radiopharmaceuticals, new camera equipment, new software programs, and more. You will gain inter-professional skills and utilize cutting edge
science and technology. There are many job opportunities across the US with
excellent salaries. To enter our program you can have any baccalaureate degree
with the following prerequisites: Pre-calculus Trigonometry,
Introductory Chemistry I and II, Pathophysiology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Statistics, College Physics
I and II, Medical Terminology , Health Care Systems, First Aid and Basic Life Support CPR. Our program is a master of science degree. It is 4 semesters
or about 15-months. It includes didactic courses in the classroom, online, or in the
laboratory, and clinical practice (in general nuclear medicine, nuclear cardiology, Positron Emission Tomography or PET,
radiopharmacy, and much more). Elective specialty tracks in Computed Tomography or CT and
Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI, are available for
students. The benefits of taking these specialty tracks include the
possibility of dual or even triple certification. For the application process you must be accepted by the
UAB Graduate School and have had a Clinical Observation. A formal interview with the admissions committee will be
done before acceptance into the program. There is a February 15th deadline each year for 1st
consideration. After February 15th acceptance is based on availability of
seats. The Graduate School deadline is July 1st each year. Nuclear Medicine Technologists work in clinical settings like
Hospitals, Out-patient imaging centers, and Physicians’
offices. Nuclear Medicine Technologists may also work in
Administration, Research, Teaching, and as a Commercial
representative. Jobs are available all across the United States. Salaries are
increasing, and starting salaries range from $45,000 –
$55,000. There are many opportunities for advancement. If you need general admissions information contact Kerry
Glasscock, Director of Admissions for the Clinical and
Diagnostic Sciences department. For individual advising or transcript review, you may contact
Norman E. Bolus, Nuclear Medicine Technology Program
Director. If you want to schedule a clinical observation, you can
contact me, Krystle Glasgow, Nuclear Medicine Technology
Clinical Coordinator. I hope that this information session was helpful to you. We
look forward to meeting you, and hope to see you in our

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published