Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy in MEDICINE

Nuclear energy is one of the most compelling alternative energy sources currently being researched and developed.

The most exciting application is in the world of medicine, but there are some potential drawbacks of nuclear energy. 

In the world of medicine, the pros of utilizing nuclear energy are that it’s painless, cost-effective, and can identify life-threatening diseases earlier.

However, the cons of nuclear energy in medicine are that it requires exposure to radiation and longer procedures.

As nuclear energy becomes more prevalent in medicine, we take an in-depth look at the pros and cons, and the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear procedures.

The Pros of Nuclear Energy in Medicine

Nuclear Energy in Medicine might not be as scary as you may think.
Medical professionals are beginning to weigh nuclear energy’s pros against its cons and are finding it has a place in medicine.

As research into the use of nuclear energy in medicine continues, more benefits of the practice are discovered.

 Some of those benefits include:

  • Highly accurate diagnoses
  • Little to no side effects
  • Detailed anatomical information 

The professional consensus is that the benefits of nuclear energy in medicine far outweigh the potential risk factors associated with the use of irradiated materials.

What are the Benefits of Using Nuclear Energy in Medicine?

When it comes to the nuclear energy pros and cons, the main benefit of using nuclear energy in medicine is how accurate it is in terms of making proper diagnoses. 

Nuclear imaging techniques are amongst the most detailed of all medical diagnostic tools for all types of medical issues.

Nuclear imaging helps doctors identify different forms of cancers in their earliest stages, allowing cancers to be more effectively treated.

These types of procedures have led to a much higher rate of early-stage discovery of malignant tumors.

In many cases, these techniques and detailed diagnoses save the life or quality of life of the patient.

Nuclear scans are also more affordable for hospitals compared to similar procedures, meaning a nuclear scan is generally more affordable for the patient as well.

Some of the most popular nuclear procedures in the United States include:

  • PET scans
  • Bone scans
  • Breast scans

Take a look at this video for an informative look at what a nuclear medicine procedure is actually like:

Read More: 10 Advantages of Nuclear Energy. Here are other nuclear energy advantages outside of medicine.

The Cons of Nuclear Energy in Medicine

Nuclear energy in medicine has its drawbacks.
Nuclear energy in medicine is not suitable for pregnant women or nursing mothers.

When considering any medical procedure, it is important to be aware of any and all drawbacks related to that procedure.

While nuclear medicine is safe and effective, there are some small negatives associated with utilizing nuclear energy in medicine.

Drawbacks of nuclear medicine include:

  • Long procedure times
  • Allergic reactions
  • Not an option for women who are pregnant or nursing

Nuclear Procedure Times

One of the main downsides associated with the use of nuclear energy is a longer procedure time. 

For these procedures to be effective, the radiopharmaceutical needs to build up in the targeted area and this process can take many hours or in some cases, days.

Newer equipment makes nuclear procedures take less time, but not every facility is outfitted with the latest medical devices.

Image Quality of Nuclear Scans

While nuclear scans are amongst the most accurate diagnostic tools in the world of medicine, the image resolution of these scans is lower than that of an MRI or a CT scan. 

This is a small drawback, but the lower image quality provides less of an incentive for hospitals and doctors to make use of nuclear procedures.

How Long Does Nuclear Medicine Stay in Your System?

Following a nuclear procedure like a PET scan, patients can give off low levels of radiation for up to 6 hours after the initial radiation dose.

The remaining radiation in the body is not harmful to you or others.

However, it is recommended that those who have had a nuclear treatment remain out of contact with pregnant women for at least 6 hours.

What are the Side Effects of Nuclear Medicine?

Side effects resulting from nuclear medicine procedures including scans are rare, but they can occur.

The most common side effect is mild, passing nausea. Again, this and other side effects are reported by very few nuclear patients.

In a very small percentage of cases, patients have had allergic reactions to nuclear treatments.

While the chances of this are low, it is important to talk to your doctor about any known allergies you have before undergoing a nuclear procedure.

Known side effects of nuclear procedures include:

  • Nausea
  • Mild skin reactions
  • Dehydration
  • Dry mouth

What are the Risks of Nuclear Medicine?

The use of nuclear energy in the medical field became popular following the conclusion of World War II

Since then, procedures that use nuclear energy for treatment or diagnosis have become more widespread.

While nuclear procedures are considered safe and effective, it is important to keep in mind that there are small risks that come along with the benefits of medicinal radiation. 

The most common risk associated with nuclear energy in medicine is the possibility of an allergic reaction to the radiopharmaceutical used during the procedure.

With that being said, it is important to reiterate that these reactions are very rare and most people have no trouble during nuclear procedures.

How is Nuclear Energy Used in Medicine?

Nuclear Energy is used in the diagnosis process.
Nuclear energy is primarily used to make diagnoses.

The most common use of nuclear energy in the medical field is making diagnoses through imaging.

Nuclear procedures such as a PET scan use small doses of radiation to allow doctors to see detailed images of organs and tissues.

These small doses of radiation help doctors assess whether or not those organs and tissues are functioning properly.

What Type of Radiation is Used in Nuclear Medicine?

Depending on the specific procedure, different radioactive isotopes are used.

These isotopes are known as radiopharmaceuticals and include but are not limited to:

  • Iodine
  • Xenon
  • Gallium
  • Technitium 
  • Thallium 

The most common radioactive isotope used in nuclear medicine is Technetium-99 which accounts for roughly 4 out of every 5 nuclear procedures.

Is Nuclear Medicine Harmful or Helpful?

Nuclear medical procedures are widely considered to be safe.

This is due to the precision with which doctors choose and administer radiopharmaceuticals. 

The safety of nuclear medicine is also highlighted by the sheer amount of nuclear procedures performed worldwide each year.

It is estimated that more than 40 million procedures that involve the use of nuclear medicine take place every year.

Procedures that use nuclear energy are designed to expose the patient to as little radiation as possible in a highly accurate manner that only affects the targeted area.

The use of nuclear energy in medicine has helped save countless lives and does not harm the body or the environment.

How Much Radiation is in Nuclear Medicine?

Most nuclear procedures scan the body with a similar amount of radiation to what is experienced during a typical x-ray.  

Procedures that use nuclear energy are designed to expose the patient to as little radiation as possible in a highly accurate manner that only affects the targeted area.

Is Nuclear Medicine Safer Than CT?

Nuclear medicine procedures like a PET scan are just as safe as other imaging techniques like CT scans. 

CT scans are often used in conjunction with nuclear imaging to create a more complete diagnosis. 

What are Nuclear Medicine Scans Used For?

The majority of patients for nuclear procedures are cancer patients or those who may have cancer that is yet to be diagnosed. 

Those who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are nursing should not undergo any procedures in which the body is exposed to radiation.

Nuclear imaging scans can also be beneficial for those who are looking for an internal diagnosis but who want to avoid a more invasive procedure like traditional surgery.

Nuclear medicine is a versatile field and also encompasses procedures that can measure blood circulation and organ health.

This versatility is one of the stand-out benefits of using nuclear energy in healthcare.


When it comes to the use of nuclear energy in healthcare, it is clear that the pros far outweigh the cons as these procedures are safe and effective.

That is not to say that there are no drawbacks associated with nuclear medicine, but rather that those drawbacks are either minor or occur only in rare circumstances. 

Nuclear procedures and imaging techniques have helped to save and improve the lives of patients without weighing them down with harsh side effects or recovery periods.

It is reasonable to guess that they will become more and more popular as innovations are made in both nuclear energy and healthcare equipment. 

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