Nuclear medicine involves the use of small amounts of radioactive materials, or tracers, to help diagnose and treat a variety of diseases.
Nuclear medicine determines the cause of the medical problem based on the function of the organ tissue or bone. Other diagnostic tests, such as X-ray or ultrasound, determine the presence of disease based on structural appearance.
Different tracers are used to study different parts of the body. The amount of tracer used is carefully selected to provide the least amount of radiation exposure to the patient while ensuring an accurate test.
Studies available at Newton Medical Center include abscess imaging, bone scans, cardiac imaging, hepatobiliary (gallbladder) imaging, gastrointestinal imaging, lung studies, renal (kidney) studies, thyroid uptakes, scans and therapy.
Sentinel Node Biopsy
Surgeons at Newton Medical Center are performing a state-of-the-art procedure that has vastly improved the detection of malignancies in lymph nodes.
When a patient is diagnosed with a certain malignancy, such as melanoma or breast cancer, cells from these tumors often break off and are picked up in lymphatic vessels. These vessels then drain into lymph nodes.
In the case of the breast, the lymphatic vessels most often drain to nodes in the axilla.
The sentinel node mapping and biopsy procedure allows surgeons to determine which nodal basin drains the malignancy and which node is affected. Sometimes there can be two or three sentinel nodes for the same malignancy.
The status of the sentinel node (positive or negative for metastatic disease) allows physicians to predict prognosis of the disease and whether further treatment is necessary.
The procedure for the sentinel node biopsy consists of injection of technetium sulfur colloid in the skin around the tumor. Also, a small amount of blue dye is injected into the area. The dye allows the physician to see the lymphatic vessel draining into the node. The node also turns blue. A gamma counter, similar to a Geiger counter, is then used to locate the sentinel node underneath the skin.
With the combination of the dye and the gamma counter, the physician is able to locate the sentinel node. An incision is then made in the skin right over the lymph node. The removal of just the sentinel node through the small incision essentially eliminates any risk of lymphedema of an extremity or chronic pain associated with a nerve injury.
The amount of radiation used is extremely low and poses no danger to the patient or the medical staff.