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Nuclear Medicine Imaging and Therapy in Rheumatology 

Nuclear Medicine Imaging and Therapy in Rheumatology
Nuclear Medicine Imaging and Therapy in Rheumatology
Oxford Textbook of Rheumatology (4 ed.)

Adil Al-Nahhas

and Imene Zerizer

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The application of nuclear medicine techniques in the diagnosis and management of rheumatological conditions relies on its ability to detect physiological and pathological changes in vivo, usually at an earlier stage compared to structural changes visualized on conventional imaging. These techniques are based on the in-vivo administration of a gamma-emitting radionuclide whose distribution can be monitored externally using a gamma camera. To guide a radionuclide to the area of interest, it is usually bound to a chemical label to form a ’radiopharmaceutical’. There are hundreds of radiopharmaceuticals in clinical use with different ’homing’ mechanisms, such as 99 mTc HDP for bone scan and 99 mTc MAA for lung scan. Comparing pre- and posttherapy scans can aid in monitoring response to treatment. More recently, positron emission tomography combined with simultaneous computed tomography (PET/CT) has been introduced into clinical practice. This technique provides superb spatial resolution and anatomical localization compared to gamma-camera imaging. The most widely used PET radiopharmaceutical, flurodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG), is a fluorinated glucose analogue, which can detect hypermetabolism and has therefore been used in imaging and monitoring response to treatment of a variety of cancers as well as inflammatory conditions such as vasculitis, myopathy, and arthritides. Other PET radiopharmaceuticals targeting inflammation and activated macrophages are becoming available and could open new frontiers in PET imaging in rheumatology. Nuclear medicine procedures can also be used therapeutically. Beta-emitting radiopharmaceuticals, such as yttrium-90, invoke localized tissue damage at the site of injection and can be used in the treatment of synovitis.

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