Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Procedures | Loyola Medicine

Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

Molecular Imaging Procedures to Detect Complications and Identify Disease

Loyola Medicine offers a multidisciplinary team of internationally recognized physicians performing state-of-the-art nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. Loyola’s expertise in functional imaging allows our world-class team of imaging specialists to see details and detect abnormalities that might otherwise go undiagnosed. Nuclear Medicine and Molecular imaging procedures are noninvasive, safe and painless. They are often used to diagnose and assist in the management of cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They are also used in the diagnosis of gastrointestinal, lung, bone, kidney, thyroid disorders and many more.

Molecular imaging identifies what is happening inside the body at the molecular and cellular level. This technology uses tracers to highlight areas of abnormal function. Molecular imaging is able to provide information that is unattainable with other imaging technologies and may help avoid invasive procedures such as biopsy or surgery. Since this technology can identify problems at the cellular level, it can help to identify disease in its earliest stages to optimize patient care.

Although most commonly used for diagnosis, these techniques can also be used to target treatment of certain disorders or cancers with minimal symptoms and high efficiency.

Why Choose Loyola for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging?

As an academic medical center, Loyola provides compassionate, comprehensive care to patients and trains future leaders in advanced nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. Loyola takes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and provides support services for patients and families.

Your entire Loyola healthcare team has one goal: restoring you to better health.

Loyola’s state-of-the-art equipment facilitates optimum image acquisition.  Our expert radiologists are recognized nationally and internationally for clinical excellence, innovative diagnostic and therapeutic methods, and for skilled use of the latest technology. Our experienced technologists provide a caring and compassionate environment where you feel comfortable asking any questions you may have about your test or procedure.

Electronic images are available to your doctors instantly through an electronic medical record system, allowing us to deliver timely, effective care to our patients. At Loyola, we understand the importance of continuity of care and provide seamless communication with your doctor through our secure medical information portal, LoyolaConnect. You can also personally access results from your lab tests and evaluations through myLoyola.

Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Tests Available at Loyola

Loyola’s expert Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging team knows that early detection is the key to providing successful treatment. They are experienced in using a variety of techniques to detect, diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases and conditions. Molecular imaging is noninvasive, safe and effective. Some of the more common Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging procedures at Loyola includes:

  • Bladder scan — This nuclear imaging test may be used to diagnose conditions such as reflux, distention or incomplete emptying of the bladder.
  • Bone scan A bone scan may be requested by your Loyola physician if you have unexplained skeletal pain, bone infection or a bone injury that can't be seen on a standard X-rayA bone scan is a very sensitive and important tool for detecting cancer that has spread to the bone from the tumor's original location.
  • Gallium scan A gallium scan can be used to detect inflammation, infection and cancer in the body.
  • Hepatobiliary (HIDA) scan This imaging procedure is used to diagnose problems in the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. It can be used to look at the bile-excreting function of your liver and to track the flow of bile from your liver into your small intestine. A HIDA scan may help in the diagnosis of several diseases and conditions, such as gallbladder inflammation, bile duct obstruction, congenital abnormalities in the bile ducts, postoperative complications such as bile leaks and fistulas, and help in the management of liver transplant.
  • Lung ventilation/perfusion scan (VQ) This test involves two types of scans: a ventilation scan which shows where air flows into your lungs, and a perfusion scan which shows where blood flows into your lungs. This test most often is used to aid in the diagnosis of a blood clot in the lungs called a pulmonary embolism, but can also be used to provide images that assist a thoracic surgeon in preparing for lung surgery.
  • Lymphoscintigraphy This nuclear imaging test is used to identify the sentinel lymph node, or the first and most important node to receive the lymph drainage from the tissue surrounding a tumor. Mapping the lymphatic drainage is important to the surgeon and can help direct and even shorten the surgical procedure.
  • Multigated acquisition (MUGA) scan MUGA scans create video images of the heart’s ventricles to evaluate their pumping function. This technology illustrates how well the heart wall moves and how much blood is pumped with each heartbeat. The MUGA scan allows your physician to evaluate your heart’s function before and after chemotherapy.
  • Myocardial perfusion stress testing This study provides information about the blood flow to the heart and can be useful to identify areas of reduced blood flow. Myocardial perfusion testing can be used to pinpoint the location and the severity of a heart attack as well as to identify which coronary arteries are blocked. Myocardial perfusion testing can help evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and may assist to determine if a patient is at an increased risk for a heart attack or may need heart surgery.
  • PET/CT scan (positron emission tomography) A PET/CT scan is an advanced imaging test that combines the ability to identify abnormal function (PET) with the widely accepted technique that identifies structural abnormalities (CT). Most commonly this technique uses a small amount of glucose as the tracer. Since tumors use more glucose than other tissues, they are easier to see and can be found at earlier stages than a CT study alone. This test can not only be used to evaluate many different types of cancer, but also assess some heart problems, epilepsy and other brain disorders. A PET scan is commonly used to monitor how well you are responding to treatment for cancer.
  • Renal scintigraphy This exam is also known as renal scanning or renal imaging and used to evaluate the function and anatomy of the kidneys, which can help your doctor in the diagnosis of kidney problems. Renal scintigraphy can also be used to evaluate a transplanted kidney.
  • Molecular Breast Imaging Can be used in combination with other breast imaging tests and is especially useful in dense breast tissue. Because the test relies on changes in function rather than structure, it may be used to investigate a breast abnormality that cannot be clearly seen on a mammogram.
  • SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) This is an imaging technique that can be used in combination with many of the Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging procedures. It provides a three dimensional image that can also be combined with CT or MRI to help more accurately determine and characterize abnormalities.
  • Thyroid scan This test provides information about the structure and function of the thyroid. In those patients who have had thyroid cancer, the scan can not only identify the amount of residual thyroid left in the neck, but can determine if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, the lungs or the bones.
  • Therapy The use of targeted radiopharmaceuticals can help in a variety of disorders. Most commonly seen in the treatment of hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer, selected agents can be used to help relieve pain when cancer has spread to the bones, shrink tumors in the liver or treat certain types of lymphoma.
  • Fusion Imaging Combining Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging studies with other imaging techniques allows our physicians to locate abnormalities more accurately. Using the HERMES software package, PET and SPECT images can be fused with CT or MRI studies to better characterized abnormal findings and assist your doctor in planning the best treatment.

State-of-the-Art Diagnostic Nuclear Cardiac Imaging for Heart Patients

Loyola’s radiology team is skilled in nuclear cardiac imaging for diseases and conditions of the heart. Nuclear imaging is safe, non-invasive and provides clear images for accurate, precise diagnosis. This technology can aid your cardiologist in identifying coronary artery disease, detecting prior heart attacks and assessing resulting damage to the heart muscle. Nuclear imaging can also be used to evaluate a patient’s risk for future heart attacks. 

This imaging tool allows cardiologists to plan timely and effective treatment including medication, angioplasty or bypass surgery. Learn more about nuclear cardiac imaging at Loyola.

Innovative Research to Improve Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

As an academic medical center, Loyola is dedicated to improving future treatments by conducting research on new diagnostics and treatments. Loyola’s expert radiology team is at the forefront of medicine and is actively pursuing new research including studies on MRIs of patients with arrhythmias and heart failure as well as breast imaging and intervention, helical CT, vascular and neurovascular intervention, and ultrasound imaging. Several of our faculty serve on the boards of leading scientific journals. Loyola’s patients benefit from research discoveries made here. Read about Loyola’s current clinical trials.