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Single photon emission computerised tomography (SPECT) is the current major scanning technology to diagnose and monitor a wide range of medical conditions.
A more recent development is positron emission tomography (PET) which is a more precise and sophisticated technique using isotopes produced in a cyclotron.
Gamma imaging by either method described provides a view of the position and concentration of the radioisotope within the body.
In combination with imaging devices which register the gamma rays emitted from within, they can study the dynamic processes taking place in various parts of the body.
In Australia there are about 560,000 per year, 470,000 of these using reactor isotopes.
The use of radiopharmaceuticals in diagnosis is growing at over 10% per year.
Nuclear medicine was developed in the 1950s by physicians with an endocrine emphasis, initially using iodine-131 to diagnose and then treat thyroid disease.
In recent years specialists have also come from radiology, as dual positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) procedures have become established, increasing the role of accelerators in radioisotope production.