Advancements in Nuclear medicine

The global nuclear medicine market size was valued at $6.1 billion in 2019 and is estimated to witness a CAGR of 9.5% during the forecast period. Rising incidence of cancer is one of the major factors expected to boost the market for nuclear medicine. For instance, according to WHO, in 2018, globally there were an estimated 9.6 million deaths due to cancer

According to the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information, about one-third of all procedures used in modern hospitals involve radiation or radioactivity. The procedures offered are effective, safe, and painless and they do not need anesthesia.

Nuclear medicine imaging uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose, evaluate or treat a variety of diseases. These include many types of cancers, heart disease, gastrointestinal, endocrine or neurological disorders and other abnormalities. Because nuclear medicine exams can pinpoint molecular activity, they have the potential to identify disease in its earliest stages. They can also show whether a patient is responding to treatment.

The global nuclear medicine market size was valued at $6.1 billion in 2019 and is estimated to witness a CAGR of 9.5% during the forecast period. Rising incidence of cancer is one of the major factors expected to boost the market for nuclear medicine. For instance, according to WHO, in 2018, globally there were an estimated 9.6 million deaths due to cancer.

Moreover, increasing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases is contributing to the growth of the market for nuclear medicine. For instance, according to WHO, cardiovascular diseases accounted for more than 17.9 million deaths worldwide every year. The number is expected to reach over 23.6 million by 2030.

The nuclear medicine market is expected to reach USD 5.2 billion by 2024 from an estimated USD 4.1 billion in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 4.7% during the forecast period. Growth in the nuclear medicine market can primarily be attributed to factors such as the increasing incidence and prevalence of cancer and cardiac ailments and initiatives to lessen the demand-supply gap of Mo-99. However, the short half-life of radiopharmaceuticals reduces their potential adoption, while hospital budget cuts and high equipment prices are expected to limit market growth to a certain extent, according to marketsandmarkets.com.

Eissa Mahmoud Eissa Khalifa, Manager, medical and nuclear medicine department UAE and Oman from Al Zahrawi Medical Supplies tells us in detail about the advancements in nuclear medicine.


Nuclear medicine imaging procedures are noninvasive. With the exception of intravenous injections, they are usually painless. These tests use radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers to help doctors diagnose and evaluate medical conditions.

“Unlike conventional imaging (X-ray, CT and MRI) that gives physician info about how does the organ look like, In nuclear medicine the physician gets a valuable information about how does the organ function/malfunction”

Radiotracers are molecules linked to, or “labeled” with, a small amount of radioactive material that can be detected on the PET scan. Radiotracers accumulate in tumors or regions of inflammation. They can also bind to specific proteins in the body. The most commonly used radiotracer is F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose, or FDG, a molecule similar to glucose. Cancer cells are more metabolically active and may absorb glucose at a higher rate. This higher rate can be seen on PET scans. This allows your doctor to identify disease before it may be seen on other imaging tests. FDG is just one of many radiotracers in use or in development.

Depending on the type of exam, the radiotracer is injected, swallowed or inhaled as a gas. It eventually accumulates in the area of the body under examination. A special camera or imaging device detects radioactive emissions from the radiotracer. The camera or device produces pictures and provides molecular information.

Nuclear medicine technology

Many centers superimpose nuclear medicine images with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce special views. This is known as image fusion or co-registration. These views allow the doctor to correlate and interpret information from two different exams on one image. This leads to more precise information and accurate diagnoses.

“Single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT) and positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) units can perform both exams at the same time. PET/MRI is an emerging imaging technology”.

Nuclear medicine also offers therapeutic procedures, such as radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy that use small amounts of radioactive material to treat cancer and other medical conditions affecting the thyroid gland, as well as treatments for other cancers and medical conditions.

According to Mahmoud, technology plays an important role in transforming the healthcare scene. People might not need to go to the hospital after 10 to 15 years from now. Smart inhalers, Robotic Surgeries, Wireless brain sensors, 3-D Printing, Artificial organs, Tele-health, Vritual and Augmented reality are just few examples.

Imaging techniques

Nuclear medicine imaging techniques combine the use of radioactive substances, detectors, and computers to provide physicians with a way to see inside the human body. Specific techniques include positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). Nuclear medicine imaging is useful for detecting tumors, irregular or inadequate blood flow to various tissues, blood cell disorders, and inadequate functioning of organs. During diagnostic procedures, the patient experiences little or no discomfort, and the radiation dose is small.

“Radiotracers work as drivers to take the radio isotope to the concerned organ/tumor of study. The success of the diagnostic protocol depends significantly on the accuracy of the binding process. When we look at the newly coming diseases which are resistant or minimal responsive to the available medicine options, researchers are assuring us that nuclear medicine is definitely going to complement with such upcoming challenges.

“In my opinion, Nuclear medicine has been proved to be a valuable branch of medicine. The evolution of PET/CT devices have demonstrated a significant improvement in special resolution. Now physician can understand/simulate how organs and tumors work on a molecular level. Also Theranostics are becoming very promising,” Mahmoud excludes our interview.

Nuclear medicine treatments

Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA, is offering nuclear medicine treatment services at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, and Tawam Hospital in Al Ain.

In her statement to the Emirates News Agency, WAM, Dr. Raqwana Baharoon, Nuclear Medicine Consultant at Sheikh Zayed Medical City, said that nuclear medicine is one of the most cutting-edge categories of medical technology and can detect many health issues, such as kidney disease, heart disease, arthritis, osteomyelitis, central nervous system inflammation, liver and spleen diseases, and lung and respiratory diseases.

Nuclear medicine analyses the functions of the body and the progress of diseases through imaging, which differs from radiology-based imaging, such as standard radiation, CT scans and magnetic resonance that examines the condition of organs and changes in anatomy, she adds.

SEHA has prioritized the use of nuclear medicine, due to its positive outcomes in many cases over recent years, she stresses.

Al Mafraq Hospital began using nuclear medicine in various diagnostic studies, such as examining myocardial perfusion to assess cardiac function and ischemia, kidney examinations to assess kidney function, and bone examinations to assess the spread of bone cancer and osteoarthritis.

The hospital also treated many thyroid cancer patients with nuclear medicine, and five patients suffering from hyperthyroidism were cured in 2018. It has treated 20,597 patients from 2011 to the first half of 2019.

Mafraq Hospital provides various nuclear medicine treatments to patients, such as bone density and skeletal examinations, bone density axial examinations, endometriosis examinations, bone marrow examinations, orthopaedic limited imaging in multiple areas, whole-body bone imaging, whole-body bone marrow imaging, and brain imaging.

Tawam Hospital began using nuclear medicine in 1979, with the establishment of the Radioactive Materials Laboratory, which is equipped with one atomic scanning device and another device for Bone density scanning.
Tawam Hospital’s nuclear medicine services have advanced over the years, making it one of the largest advanced nuclear medicine departments in the region, equipped with three atomic emission tomography CT scanners and one CT emission tomography scanner, as well as two suites with high-precision radioisotope treatment equipment, two highly qualified nuclear medicine consultants and five supporting medical staff who specialize in nuclear medicine
The Department of Nuclear Medicine at Tawam Hospital provides various services related to tumors, heart disease, endocrinology, thyroid disease, benign active thyroid disease and Parkinson’s disease.