Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging Section

From the IAEA Division of Human Health

Diseases take on all shapes and forms, and some are easier to detect than others. Obvious outward growths like rashes and warts are quick to spot, but for some diseases and conditions more information is needed. Fortunately, nuclear medicine physicians and radiologists today can use a wide range of modern diagnostic imaging techniques and technologies to identify a variety of health conditions.

What are nuclear medicine and diagnostic imaging?

Nuclear medicine is a field of medicine that uses a very small amount of radioactive substances called radioisotopes for the diagnosis and radionuclide treatment of many health conditions such as certain types of cancer, and neurological and heart diseases. Diagnostic imaging can show anatomical details, and reveal how the targeted body part functions. The information produced is important for doctors to determine the status and functioning of different organs, and it helps them make critical decisions and tailor the treatment to the patient’s needs.

Why are nuclear medicine and diagnostic imaging important?

  • Enable early discovery of changes in tissues since changes in function often occur before changes in anatomy;
  • Enable quick, personalized management of each patient;
  • Can help determine extent of disease;
  • Can safely view and treat disease;
  • Can be used to treat disease without surgery;
  • Can help evaluate patient’s response to treatment;
  • Can help find and characterize diseases in practically every organ including the heart, brain, skeleton, thyroid and kidneys — and many types of cancer.

What is the role of the IAEA?

The IAEA helps to establish new, and improve existing, nuclear medicine and diagnostic imaging facilities and enhance the capabilities of Member States to address major health problems, like cancer and cardiovascular disease, effectively and efficiently using these medical techniques when appropriate and in a cost-effective manner. This goal is achieved by raising the standards of the nuclear medicine and diagnostic imaging practice by providing targeted education and training; assisting in establishing new practices; transferring updated technology and implementing appropriate, clinically relevant and updated diagnostic and therapeutic applications.