The importance of nuclear medicine has not stopped increasing for several decades with the developments of new imaging techniques and various cunning ruses to improve the quality of images. Alain Seret, at the ULg’s experimental nuclear imaging department, has just co-signed an article (1) which could mark a new stage in the history of medical scintigraphy.
It is over the course of the last few decades that nuclear medicine has genuinely taken off. It is based on the phenomenon of radioactivity, discovered by chance by Henri Becquerel over a century ago. Thirty years later the perspectives opened up by the application of radioactivity in medicine could be understood: it concerned the first time a radioactive substance was administered to a patient affected by leukaemia.
Today, a nuclear medicine examination begins by injecting into a patient a substance, chosen for its specific properties which lead it to be fixed in the organ or tissue to be visualized. This pharmaceutical is ideally similar to a substance naturally ingested by the body, in such a way that it can substitute for it in its physiological role. It is nevertheless not identical to it, otherwise it would not be detectable. To be identifiable for a detector, a lightly radioactive marker is grafted on to it so that it thus becomes a radio-pharmaceutical. In disintegrating, it emits gamma particles (written γ) which are captured by instruments sensitive to this very penetrating radiation: the nuclear imaging cameras are mainly composed of a sparkling crystal fitted with photomultipliers.
(1) Seret Alain, Vanhove Christian, Defrise Michel, 2009.
improvement and noise reduction in human pinhole SPECT using a multi-ray
approach and the SHINE method., Nuklearmedizin, vol. 48, pp.