A Heritage of Loving Service: The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Tucson
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Heritage: The Story of St. Mary's Hospital, 1880-1980
By Leo G. Bryne and Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J

Chapter III Contemporary St. Mary's
Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear Medicine, along with Radiology, has entered the computer age with the recent acquisition of the fully programmable VIP-450 Video Imager Processor and the Raytheon Large Field Scintillator Camera. Bone, liver, brain, lung and thyroid studies are performed on studies. The gated cardiac studies provide exact measurements of cardiac function showing moving images of the blood flow through the beating heart.

The earliest diagnostic and therapeutic use of radioactive materials at St. Mary's was in 1953 with the study and treatment of thyroid problems. This was the first use of nuclear medicine for human beings in Arizona.

The expanded use of radioactive substances in medicine has since been the result of the development of a scanning device and new methods of using tagged materials, also known as tracers, which concentrate themselves in various organs or circulate in the blood depending on their chemical property. Primary tools are extremely small amounts of radioactive isotopes and a scintillator, a device which detects the distribution of radiation. In the thyroid test, for example, the patient is given a capsule containing radioactive iodine. Twenty-four hours later, the scintillator is able to measure the amounts of iodine taken up by the thyroid gland. This gives the physician idea of the degree of activity of the gland.

In the blood volume test, the patient is given an intravenous injection of a radioactive substance in one arm. Fifteen minutes later, a blood sample is taken from the other arm, and, from the amount of radioactive substance found to be present, the volume of the person's blood can be determined.

Some tagged materials are scanned for their location in a given area at a given time. In the case of the kidneys, they tell the physician the condition of the kidneys and their functioning ability.

In the lung scan, the patient is given a small amount of xenon, a radioactive gas, to breathe. The ability of the patient to properly exchange air in the lungs can be evaluated this way. The patient is then given an injection of micron-sized particles which allows evaluation of the blood circulation to the lungs.

At present, a full range of diagnostic Nuclear Medicine services is available at St. Mary's. Therapeutic treatment is limited to thyroid problems. The greatest number of cases involves bone scans which lately have been revealing a number of micro-fractures of the feet and lower extremities suffered by joggers.

Continue with Chapter III: Contemporary St. Mary's Chemotherapy

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