Use of Radioactive Elements in Medicine

Subject: Healthcare Research
Pages: 4
Words: 1299
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College

Radioactive elements are those elements that are unstable and have excess nucleus energy and gain stability by giving off atomic radiation. Atoms with extra neutrons and protons create extra energy in the nucleus rendering the atom unbalanced. The radiation emitted transforms radioactive elements into another chemical form that may be stable, and the radiated material undergoes further decay. Radioactive elements can target specific organs, cells, or tissues in human anatomy for diagnosis and therapy purposes. Radiopharmaceuticals contain isotopes with special features that make them effective in treating and diagnosing various diseases. Radioactivity is applied in radiology, cardiology, nuclear medicine, and radiation oncology. Phosphorus-32, iodine-131, technetium-99m, Radium-223, Strontium-89, and Samarium-153 are the most common radioisotopes used in medicine. Radioactive elements are extensively used in radiology, cardiology, and nuclear medicine to help detect and treat diseases using radioisotope materials.

Radioactive elements are used in cardiology. Cardiology is a branch of medicine dealing with heart disorders. Coronary artery diseases, congenital heart defects, heart failure, electrophysiology, and vulvar heart disease are some of the heart disorders treated using cardiology. According to Gimelli et al. (2018), an angiogram is the most common x-ray exam to detect coronary issues such as artery blockage. An angiogram is injected into the heart rather than a radioactive material to create clear imaging of the arteries and veins. The advantage of using radioactivity in cardiology is that it is a non-invasive technique with fewer surgical procedures. Non-optimized and unjustified use of radiation materials is avoided since they are subjective to radiological dose risk, causing radiation-induced cancer (Gimelli et al., 2018). Radioactivity in cardiology can be applied to detect artery and vein failure in the heart. Radioactive materials are only used in nuclear medicine during therapy.

Nuclear medicine differs from general radiology and cardiology in that small amounts of radioactive materials are used to examine organ functionality and anatomy. The radioactive materials used in the procedure are radiopharmaceuticals (Weber et al., 2020). Radiopharmaceuticals can either be placed in internal organs close to a cancer tumor to shrink and wreck it or help precise imaging in disease detection. A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan is an example of a diagnostic procedure in nuclear medicine (Weber et al., 2020). In a PET scan, a radiopharmaceutical is placed in the blood vessels and moves to specific organs for diagnosis and treatment. Tests like this can be used to check respiratory function, blood flow, and organ functioning, and inspect infections. The advantage of nuclear medicine is that it provides unique imaging features applicable to gaining precise information. The downside of using nuclear medicine is the high cost and health risks associated with prolonged exposure to nuclear medicine. States regulate radiation programs and the use of radiopharmaceuticals by ensuring the clinicians are properly skilled and the equipment is risk-free (Cegla et al., 2020). Nuclear medicine can be used to produce PET scans destroy cancer tumors, and assess the performance of drugs in cancer treatment.

Radioactive elements have extensive applications in radiology. Radiology is the branch of medicine that conducts imaging tests using x-ray technology. Radiology can be divided into diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology. Mammography, Computerized Tomography CT, Fluoroscopy, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Magnetic Resonance Angiography are some types of X-ray examinations (Cegla et al., 2020). The imaging scans in diagnostic radiology are non-invasive and used to detect diseases. Interventional radiology involves an imaging procedure of internal body organs using minor surgeries to diagnose and treat cancer. Radiology benefits patients by eliminating the need for exploratory surgical procedures. Radiology is however restricted for people allergic to Barium (Cegla et al., 2020). X-rays facilitate internal body view for the doctors with minimal incision (Weber et al., 2020). Low doses of radiation effectively create highly detailed images for diagnosis and intervention.

Ionizing radiation is used in nuclear medicine to detect and manage cancer in the radiation oncology process. Brachytherapy, linear accelerators, and gamma stereotactic radiosurgery are the equipment used in radiation oncology (Akgun et al., 2021). Brachytherapy involves implantations with radioactive elements positioned near a cancer tumor to produce a constant stream of radiation to inflict radioactivity decay. Brachytherapy is a safe treatment method, and the implants can either be placed inside the body temporarily or permanently. Linear accelerators use electron beams to increase the velocity of charged subatomic ions along a linear beamline. The electron beam is highly collimated to concentrate the energy on the tumor, sparing the normal tissues (Lamartina et al., 2018). Radiation potentially damages tissues when they are exposed to radioactive energy. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is a common form of specialized treatment performed by linear accelerators. Radiation oncology uses electrically charged ions to remove electrons from atoms and molecules to kill the cells and prevent them from burgeoning.

Radioisotopes are the chemical elements used in all radioactive diagnoses and treatments. Radioisotopes can also sterilize medical equipment by using naturally decaying atoms. Iodine-131, Samarium-153, Technetium-99m, Molybdenum-99, Strontium-89, and Yttrium-90 are the common isotopes used in nuclear medication (Akgun et al., 2021). Beta and gamma radiation of the isotopes is used for therapy and research on nuclear medicine. In research, radioisotopes enhance the sensitivity of analyzing research samples.

Additionally, standard medical techniques such as Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Position Emission Tomography (PET) must utilize radioisotopes (Akgun et al., 2021). Nonetheless, the use of radioisotopes causes hair loss, gastrointestinal disruption, skin burns, or death from Acute Radiation Syndrome. Radioisotopes in medicine have been on the rise in nuclear medicine procedures.

Radioisotopes have replaced thyroid cancer by introducing iodine-131 to the thyroid gland. Iodine-131 is commercially produced through nuclear fission in capsule, liquid, or gaseous form for medical use. Iodine treatment is an internal radiotherapy process for thyroid cancer because the thyroid gland absorbs and stores iodine in the body (Lamartina et al., 2018). Iodine treatment can ablate thyroid tissues affected by cancer cells. Lamartina et al. (2018) imply that the use of iodine treatment has become standard practice in thyroid treatment to avoid the risks of thyroid surgery. However, iodine therapy cannot be applied in anaplastic and medullary thyroid carcinomas since these tumors do not take up iodine. A thyroid-stimulating hormone is necessary for more radioiodine therapy efficacy (Lamartina et al., 2018). Hyperthyroidism characterized by excessive production of the hormone thyroxin can also be treated using radioactive iodine.

Yttrium-90 (Y-90) are isotopes used to treat non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, arthritis, and liver cancer. Lymphoma is a cancer of white blood cells categorized in Hodgkin (HL) and non-Hodgkin (NHL) (Akgun et al., 2021). However, NHL is more common than HL and is managed by radiation therapy. In Lymphoma cancer treatment, involved field or site radiation therapy is used to ensure the radiation is only delivered in areas with Lymphoma. Y-90 is introduced to the joint area to limit inflation and pain in some types of arthritis. However, the most common side effects of Y-90 application are loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, and nausea. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis treated using a Y-90 synovectomy. Moreover, radiation therapy combined with embolization is used in liver cancer treatment.

The rapidly growing field of nuclear medicine has rendered radioactivity very critical in diagnosis and therapy. Radiology, cardiology, and nuclear medicine are the fields of medicine that use radioactivity. X-rays are an important field of medicine that facilitates imagery and treatment of internal body organs. The application of radiotherapy is limited due to the risks involved with dosage to ensure the staff has the appropriate skill and the machines involved are safe. Radioisotopes are atoms that contain an unbalanced combination of neutrons and protons that can be placed near cancer tumors for diagnosis and radiation. Radioisotopes are the radioactive elements used in the treatment of cancer. Radioisotopes are extensively used in medicine to treat thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, arthritis, and liver cancer.


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