What Patients Should Know
Welcome to the Patient Information section of IAC online. The IAC provides the following information as a service to the general public. This section is designed to help prospective patients stay educated and informed about nuclear cardiology, general nuclear medicine and PET imaging studies and the importance of accredited facilities.
What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty that is used to diagnose and treat diseases in a safe and painless way. Nuclear medicine procedures permit the determination of medical information that may otherwise be unavailable, require surgery, or necessitate more expensive and invasive diagnostic tests. The procedures often identify abnormalities very early in the progression of disease — long before some medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests. This early detection allows a disease to be treated sooner in its course when a more successful prognosis may be possible.
The information obtained through Nuclear Medicine examinations is extremely helpful to physicians in diagnosing a variety of conditions. It can be used to identify abnormal lesions, determine whether or not certain organs are functioning normally, and assess a patient's blood volume, lung function, vitamin absorption, and bone density. In addition to identifying sites of seizures (epilepsy), Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, nuclear medicine can find cancers, determine whether they are responding to treatment, and determine if infected bones will heal. Specifically, Nuclear Cardiology studies use noninvasive techniques to assess myocardial blood flow, evaluate the pumping function of the heart, as well as visualize the size and location of a heart attack. A specific type of nuclear medicine procedure called a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan is rapidly becoming a highly reliable tool in determining the presence and severity of cancers, neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease. In addition to diagnostic imaging, nuclear medicine can be used as medical therapy to treat diseases such as hyperthyroidism, certain types of cancers (lymphomas) and to manage bone pain as a result of cancer.
Early detection of life-threatening heart disorders and other diseases is possible through the use of nuclear medicine procedures performed within hospitals, outpatient centers and physicians' offices. Nuclear medicine's reliability in diagnosing vast types of diseases and heart conditions is encouraging as we strive for ways to reduce lives lost in the United States each year. However, it is critical that the public realizes there are many facets that contribute to an accurate diagnosis based on nuclear medicine. These factors include the skill of the nuclear medicine technologist performing the examination, the type of equipment used, the background and knowledge of the interpreting physician and quality assurance measures. In fact, poor nuclear medicine procedures often lead to inconvenient, redundant studies, misdiagnosis and even unnecessary tests or surgery.
IAC Accreditation — A "Seal of Approval" Patients Can Count On.
Private offices, clinics and departments within hospitals that are accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) voluntarily submit to a review of their daily operations. By participating in the accreditation process, these medical facilities demonstrate a commitment to the performance of quality general nuclear medicine, nuclear cardiology and/or PET imaging procedures and strive to meet nationally recognized standards. During the accreditation process, applicant facilities must submit documentation on every aspect of their daily operations. While completing the application, facilities are required to identify and correct potential problems, revising protocols and validating quality assurance programs. Applications submitted, including samples of the nuclear medicine procedures performed, are reviewed by experts throughout the United States and Canada. Approximately 30-50% of applicant facilities receive an onsite visit to their facility as part of the application process. The remainder of the applicants undergo a documentation audit. Accreditation is granted only to those facilities that are found to be providing quality patient care, in compliance with the IAC Standards. Once granted, IAC accreditation is valid for a period of three years, after which time the facility must undergo a repeat evaluation.