What is Gamma Camera?
What is a Gamma Camera used for?Gamma cameras are extremely important to radiologists as they enable them to perform "scintigraphy scans" that reveal detailed information about the functioning of various organs like the lungs, heart, thyroid, liver and so on. This makes them extremely useful in medical care as they are used in the diagnosis of health conditions and also to monitor follow up treatment. The scans thus obtained help experts to diagnose and identify various cancers, congenital abnormalities and numerous other conditions, allowing them to plan an effective course of action. Corrective action to modify and change treatment plans is also possible as specialists are able to gauge patient responsiveness to ongoing treatments.
How does a Gamma Camera Work?To begin with, a tracer or radiopharmaceutical is administered to the patient orally, intravenously or through inhalation. This means that the patientís body contains radioactive tracer for a brief period, during which gamma cameras can be used to generate images. These cameras image the radiation from the tracer, with technetium-99m being the most commonly used tracer. It has a relative long half-life of six hours and can be incorporated into a variety of molecules making it capable of targeting different systems of the body. As the tracer travels through the human body, it emits radiation that can be picked up and tracked by a crystal in the camera that sparks or scintillates in response to exposure to gamma rays. The crystal in the camera is positioned in front of an array of light sensors so that the flashes of light upon exposure get converted into an electrical signal. This is why the camera is also known as a scintillating camera. This technology helps to gauge functioning and health of various body structures and organs as experts can recognize conditions based on the accumulation or exclusion of tracer from certain areas.
What sets the gamma camera apart from other imaging devices is that it examines the functioning of various bodily processes, not just the anatomy or structure. Gamma cameras may have been of little use prior to the advent of the information age, but today with computer technology, advanced calculations can be computed very rapidly, converting the radiation detection by the camera into cohesive information that greatly helps radiologists. The spread of the radioisotope through the patientís body can in fact be tracked in real time as the images are created in a fraction of a second. This means that doctors donít just get static images of an organ or structure but they can view highly detailed images showing the process, like contraction of the heart. The gamma camera can in fact be used for different types of diagnoses and monitoring by simply changing the radiopharmaceutical that is administered to the patient. For example, to produce images of the skeletal structure, instead of the heart or kidneys, the patient will be given an intravenous does of radioactive solution that adheres to the skeletal structure instead.