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Nuclear Medicine Imaging: Medical Devices & Artifacts

by Gagandeep Choudhary, MD and Phillip Kuo, MD, PhD



Artifacts are common in nuclear medicine. It is good judgment to think of an artifact or medical device first when there is an unusual finding (Patton, 1994). Nuclear medicine imaging relies on the detection of photons originating within the body from administered radiopharmaceutical. In this regard, the anterior view of the body will be different than the posterior view, and artifacts may not be evident on all the views from a nuclear medicine study.

Nuclear medicine studies produce physiologic information. They are sometimes very sensitive for detection of disease not easily found by other imaging means. However, normal physiologic alterations in body function - fasting versus non-fasting, exercise versus non-exercise, and so forth may lead to significant changes in nuclear medicine studies without significant pathologic or morphologic changes in the patient. Because nuclear medicine studies (excluding hybrid scanners with CT or MRI) also have poor anatomic information in comparison with other imaging techniques, artifacts or medical devices that are easily identifiable on other imaging studies may be difficult to identify on nuclear medicine images, particularly for the inexperienced observer. It is always wise to correlate any imaging study, whether it is ultrasound, CT, nuclear medicine, or MRI, with other imaging studies. This is a good habit which reduces errors, improves patient care, and saves more time than it costs to look through the other studies (Patton, 1994).

This discussion concerns artifacts related to medical devices and foreign bodies. Many nuclear medicine artifacts arise from technical aspects of nuclear medicine imaging, such as instrumental settings, radiotracer quality control, and drug effects (Zanzonico, 2008). These artifacts related to technique will not be discussed here since they are covered more extensively in standard nuclear medicine texts and articles (Mainor, 2009Zanzonico, 2008Gentili, 1994Ryo, 1990Mettler, 2012).


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