Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

Nuclear Medicine Radiologists

Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging evaluates the function of organs and/or tissues or looks for the presence of disease. It may also be used to follow the progress of treatment of a diagnosis.
At OHSU your care and experience are our number one priority. We are an ACR accredited facility and we take pride in providing the highest quality imaging that you can receive. Our technologists are OBMI certified through the State of Oregon, as well as nationally registered with NMTCB and ARRT.  Our board-certified radiologists specialize in Nuclear Medicine. Your appointment is unique to you and each exam is protocoled by one of our Nuclear Medicine Radiologists.
Here at OHSU, we offer the full gamut of diagnostic Nuclear Medicine imaging and therapeutic procedures, participate in many clinical trials, and are developing novel imaging and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals through the Center for Radiochemistry Research, making us one the leading institutions on the West Coast. For questions regarding your appointment, please call 503-494-8468.

What is Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging?

Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging uses radioactive substances called radiopharmaceuticals. These are also referred to as radiotracers or just "tracers", for short.  Diagnostic tests using radiotracers often have an advantage over other types of diagnostic imaging in that the radiotracers are able to show how a certain tissue or organ is functioning. Most other types of diagnostic imaging tests (e.g. CT scans, MRI scans, X-rays) simply show what an organ or tissue looks like, and not how it is functioning. A Nuclear Medicine or Molecular Imaging scan consists of three parts: radiotracer administration, image acquisition, and image interpretation.

Tracer Administration and Image Acquisition

A wide variety of radiotracers are employed in the practice of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. They can be injected, inhaled or swallowed, depending on the type of exam being performed. Radiotracers are designed to target specific tissues. For example, in PET scans performed to evaluate tumors, a radioactive form of the glucose molecule (F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose) is injected into the body and is rapidly taken-up by tumor cells that use the glucose for energy. Most radiotracers used have a very short half-life, meaning they exist for only a short period of time before transforming into non-radioactive substances or before being excreted from the body. Most radiotracers used for diagnostic imaging emit a small quantity of radiation that poses minimal risk to your health.

After the radioisotope has been administered and it has collected in the body tissue under study, it emits radiation that is detected by specialized cameras. The amount of time between when a radiotracer is administered and when the images are acquired can range from a few moments to a few days, depending on the specific type of test. The time required to obtain the images may also vary from minutes to several days. Some studies require planar imaging that acquires 2D images.