Description of specialty

Nuclear medicine has been defined by the World Health Organization as the specialty that uses radioactive isotopes for diagnosis, therapy and research. There has been significant growth recently for nuclear medicine services including radionuclide therapy (molecular radiotherapy) and positron emission tomography (PET). Nuclear medicine operates under a unique legal framework and physicians must obtain and hold a number of certificates, in particular those issued by the Administration of Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee (ARSAC).

The specialty is broad in nature as most diagnostic tests and treatment rely on systemic administration of a radioactive pharmaceutical (radiopharmaceutical) that targets a specific function or physiological action for imaging or treatment. However, it also contains elements of many other specialties including radiotherapy, cardiology, radiology and neurology.

 Nuclear medicine physicians must have a good knowledge of general internal medicine but also a working knowledge of specialties such as neurology, cardiology, endocrinology, nephrology and gastroenterology, and, less commonly for a specialty of the RCP, paediatrics.

 More information concerning the services provided by a nuclear medicine department is available from the British Nuclear Medicine Society and the European Association of Nuclear Medicine.