Those who are not too familiar with radioisotopes may think their use is for harmful radiation, nuclear weapons, and the possibility of turning into a giant raging green monster. However, there are much more positive uses for radioisotopes. There have been many medical advances thanks to the benefit and practice of radioisotopes in nuclear medicine. These advances have been able to diagnose and treat a variety of diseases.
The year 1939 was when the start of using radioisotope in medical clinics began. This radioisotope was Iodine-131 and it was used in thyroid investigations. Iodine-131 was also later used for treating hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer. After this success of using this radioisotope, other radioactive isotopes became accessible (Keevil).
Technetium-99m was used in an imaging demonstration in 1964. As a result of its favorable physical and chemical properties it quickly became one of the most used radioisotopes for nuclear medical procedures (Keevil). This radioisotope can be found in nuclear medicine procedures that involve diagnostics of the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, spleen, bones, and blood flow (GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy).
Radioisotopes have helped create advanced imaging techniques. Beforehand, X rays could only provide so much information such as broken bones,abnormal growths, and locating foreign objects in the body. Now it is possible to obtain much more informations from medical imaging. Not only can this advanced imaging give imaging of tiny structures in the body, but it can also provide details such as cancerous cells and damaged heart tissue from a heart attack. It can even observe the brain functioning. More recently, researchers have been using imaging with radioisotopes for mental disorders (Medical Research 2005: Seeing Beneath Our Skin: Imaging the Body).
There are a wide variety of medical imaging that uses radioisotopes. A radioisotope gastric-emptying scan, or gastric scintigraphy, is used to diagnosing Gastroparesis. This involves eating a tiny amount of radioisotope that has been placed in food and being put under a scanner machine (Gastroparesis Overview: Causes and Symptoms). Prostascint is a type of fusion imaging procedure that can detect prostate cancer cells. This procedure uses the radioisotope Indium-111 which has the ability to target distinctively the prostate membrane antigen, which allows the imaging to locate the prostate cancer cells (Prostate Cancer; Fusion imaging helps target greater doses of radiation to prostate cancer cells). Nuclear scans are used to detect an array of abnormalities including the bones, brain, kidneys, thyroid, and many more organs. Nuclear scans can also observe the digestive process such as looking for gastrointestinal bleeding or determining the length of time it takes for the stomach to empty. This procedure involves radioisotope, usually either technetium or thallium, being injected into a vein before the imaging process begins (Diagnostic Imaging). A...