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Nuclear Medicine

Navigating the complexities of nuclear medicine malpractice claims

Nuclear medicine is a specialized area that uses small amounts of radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals, to diagnose and treat diseases. Radiopharmaceuticals may be injected, ingested, or inhaled and are designed to target specific organs, tissues, or cells.

Physicians in this specialty are called nuclear medicine doctors, nuclear medicine specialists, nuclear radiologists, or nucleologists. Nuclear medicine doctors must hold a medical degree (MD or DO) and complete a four-year residency program in nuclear medicine, which includes hands-on training in nuclear medicine imaging, radiation safety, and radiopharmaceutical therapy. Board Certification in this specialty can be sought from the American Board of Nuclear Medicine (ABNM) or the American Osteopathic Board of Nuclear Medicine (AOBNM).

The field of nuclear medicine also includes nuclear medicine technologists and allied medical professionals who administer radiopharmaceuticals and perform diagnostic imaging procedures using specialized equipment. Nuclear medicine technologists are required to have degrees or certificates in nuclear medicine technology, as well as certification from the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Nuclear medicine diagnosis and treatment

As a diagnostic tool, nuclear medicine is used to take pictures of the body’s organs, tissues, and bones. Once in the body, the radiopharmaceutical emits radiation that can be detected by an imaging device, allowing doctors to use gamma cameras or PET scanners to see inside the body and assess the function and metabolism of organs and tissues. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures include:

Nuclear medicine is used in diagnosis to obtain images of the body's organs, tissues, and bones and to assess their function. This is accomplished by using radiopharmaceuticals, which are substances that emit radiation, and specialized cameras or scanners that detect the radiation emitted from these substances.

Some of the common diagnostic nuclear medicine procedures include:

  • Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Bone scan
  • Thyroid scan

Nuclear medicine treatment is also known as radiopharmaceutical therapy or radionuclide therapy. Radiopharmaceuticals can be used to target specific organs, tissues, or cells in the body for a variety of therapeutic effects. Some common procedures include:

  • Radioiodine therapy for thyroid cancer
  • Radioembolization for liver cancer
  • Radiosynovectomy for joint pain
  • Radiopharmaceutical therapy for bone pain
  • Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy for neuroendocrine tumors

The role of nuclear medicine expert witnesses

In nuclear medicine malpractice cases, a nuclear medicine physician can explain the applicable standards of care and any deviations from the standard of care, such as using the wrong radiopharmaceutical or misinterpreting test results. They may also be able to offer an opinion on whether a patient could have had an improved outcome if they were promptly referred for radionuclide therapy or other treatment. Since nuclear medicine is often used to diagnose and treat life-threatening conditions such as cancer, the consequences of malpractice are often significant, and the right expert witness can make a dramatic difference.

Nuclear medicine specialists can also play a valuable role in assessing a plaintiff’s damages. They can interpret a wide variety of test results, such as PET scans, bone scans, and thyroid scans, to determine the nature and extent of an injury. A nuclear medicine physician can also offer their professional opinion on a patient’s long-term prognosis and the cost of treatment.

The best in nuclear medicine to assist the legal community

Rieback Medical-Legal Consultants has been helping America’s finest attorneys find highly qualified experts in nuclear medicine and other specialties for decades. The right expert can make all the difference in complex cases involving cancer misdiagnosis and other significant medical issues. Contact us today for a free case summary review.

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