Nuclear medicine in the acute clinical setting: Indications, imaging findings, and potential pitfalls

Livnat Uliel, Vincent M. Mellnick, Christine O. Menias, Andrew L. Holz, Jonathan McConathy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Nuclear medicine imaging provides valuable functional information that complements information obtained with anatomic imaging techniques in the evaluation of patients with specific acute clinical manifestations. Nuclear medicine studies are most often used in conjunction with other imaging modalities and as a problem-solving tool. Under certain circumstances a nuclear medicine study may be indicated as the first-line imaging modality, as in the case of renal scintigraphy for transplant dysfunction in the early postoperative period. Nuclear imaging may be preferred when a conventional first-line study is contraindicated or when it is important to minimize radiation exposure. The portability of nuclear imaging offers particular advantages for the evaluation of critically ill patients whose clinical condition is unstable and who cannot be safely transported out of the intensive care unit. The ability to visualize physiologic and pathophysiologic processes over relatively long time periods without adding to the patient's radiation exposure contributes to the high diagnostic sensitivity of several types of nuclear medicine studies. Viewing the acquired images in the cine mode adds to the value of these studies for diagnosing and characterizing dynamic abnormalities such as intermittent internal bleeding and bile or urine leakage. In this pictorial review, the spectrum of nuclear medicine studies commonly performed in the acute care setting is reviewed according to body systems and organs, with detailed descriptions of the indications, technical considerations, findings, and potential pitfalls of each type of study. Supplemental material available at /lookup/suppl/doi:10.1148/rg.332125098/-/DC1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-396
Number of pages22
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013

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