A leap into the 21st century: nuclear medicine
The North Estonia Medical Centre started nuclear medicine in 2002, when for the first time in the entire Baltics, our centre started conducting positron emission tomography studies. This breakthrough in the field of nuclear medicine can be described as an epochal leap into the 21st century.
Demand for nuclear medicine studies had increased gradually. This stemmed from the fact that in order to plan timely and sufficiently comprehensive care and objectively evaluate the outcomes, a top-flight hospital today requires methods for detecting signs of improvement or progression of disease in an early stage before advanced structural tissue changes.
Metabolically specific substances (so-called smart molecules) are used in nuclear medicine producers. The smart molecules are tagged with radioactive atoms so they can be tracked. A smart molecule is capable of carrying a radioactive isotope to the disease location. It is important to note that usually the smart molecules are injected into the patient in extremely tiny quantities, measurable in nano- and picograms. This quantity is comparable to one billionth of a sugar cube.
As these are very specific diagnostic and treatment methods, the implementation of nuclear medicine methods is, both in Estonia and other countries, based at specialized centres. Since 2003, the Medical Centre’s nuclear medicine department is also providing service to patients from abroad. In 2012, foreign patients made up 61 percent of all those treated. Since 2012, the department has PET7KT Centre European accreditation (EANM Research Ltd, EARL), while in 2013, we passed an International Atomic Energy Audit.
The Nuclear Medicine department has 18 staff. 7 physicians, 9 technicians, 2 aides and 2 secretaries. The department's activity also receives support from 2 biomedical technology and medical physics specialists, the hospital quality control service, the Hospital Pharmacy, and occupational environment specialists, among others.
The nuclear medicine department is outfitted with fully up to date facilities equipment, of which the following are the most significant: a PET/CT hybrid display device (Discovery VCT, General Electric, USA), a SPET/CT hybrid display (Infinia Hawkeye, General Electric, US), a “hot lab” and seven individual hospital rooms with all amenities and custom furnishings.
The nuclear medicine department offers solutions for the following problems:
- Diagnostics of benign illnesses: evaluating blood supply to the heart, evaluation of functional status of thyroid and parathyroid, evaluating lung respiration and pulmonary blood supply, evaluating renal function, ascertaining site of infections and haemorrhaging, evaluating dementia and related conditions, early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and distinguishing it from other Parkinsonism syndromes.
- Cancer diagnostics and treatment: detecting metabolically active tumour tissue body-wide, evaluating cancer therapy’s effect on tumours, diagnostics and treatment of thyroid cancer, detecting and treating bone metastases, detecting and treating neuroendocrine tumours.
Patients of all ages who have the relevant indications receive treatment at the Nuclear Medicine Department.