We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the Role of Physics in Nuclear Medicine?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

In the broadest terms, physics studies focus on physical objects, their compositional matter and their interactions and movement through space and time. Physics is used as a means to explain events and situations that occur in the natural world, and physics theories therefore are a strong component of several scientific disciplines, including astronomy, biology and nuclear studies. The use of physics in nuclear medicine involves applying physics principles and theories such as radioactive decay and fusion or fission to generating medical technology. Studying matter at the most basic particle cell levels is the cornerstone of physics in nuclear medicine. Principles in nuclear physics are most often used medically in image testing and pharmaceutical creation.

Nuclear medicine is a form of applied physics. Applications of physics in nuclear medicine make use of physics theories and subdisciplines to design and create working objects or new methods for performing tasks. They use rigorously tested scientific methods and attempt to apply stable and unchanging scientific laws. Quantum mechanics, for example, is a physics subfield that addresses how particles such as those generated in radioactive decay also have wavelike properties and how these particles interact both with each other and with energy forces.

Nuclear physics is the foundation of nuclear technology, including nuclear medicine. This broad field is focused on the nuclei found in atoms, particularly their structure and interactions. Scientists can manipulate the inner portions of these cells and create powerful reactions, which usually produce radiation — a basic physics principle of energy moving through space. Nuclear research activities that can generate energy include speeding up, heating up, transferring, decaying, splitting and fusing. The latter activities are especially prominent in nuclear medicine.

Fission and fusion are nuclear reactions that can be used to generate energy for physics in nuclear medicine. The former event involves splitting atomic particles, whereas the latter involves combining atomic material together. Physicists induce these reactions in devices called nuclear reactors. In the medical field, research reactors are often used for analysis, for testing and for producing radioisotopes, or the nuclear material of atoms.

A main component of nuclear physics in medicine relates to diagnostic imaging. These processes — also called nuclide imaging — take place when the physician injects nuclide particles into the body. As these particles decay, they generate radioactive forms of energy called gamma rays. Specific equipment such as gamma cameras then detect differences in radioactivity. Variations often give insight into the functional capacities of different body regions and parts.

In radioactive decay such as that found in imaging practices, the particle activities are known in physics as weak interactions because they do not create a strong and binding effect. Other types of basic interaction types in physics include electromagnetism and gravity. Physicians use the electrically charged particle interactions in electromagneticism to create magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.

Another application of physics in nuclear medicine occurs when nuclide materials are used for medical treatments. For example, when radionuclide material is combined with certain types of drugs, the result of this interaction is radiopharmaceuticals. These treatments are used most often for specific types of conditions, such as cancer. Direct energy radiation sources also can be used in cancer radiation therapy treatments, in which beams of radiation rays are directed at target areas in the body in hopes that they will destroy harmful substances.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.