(109) Nuke Me, Baby: The Veteran and Radiopharmaceuticals

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Exposure to Nuclear Medicine 

The second floor of our VA Hospital displays signs that send chills down your spine. Exiting the elevator, signs scream out with an alphabet of rage: CT, MRI, XRAY, PET. For the less faint of heart, an arrow to the left leads to Nuclear Medicine. Ominous.

Accompanying my Veteran to a VQ, I expected to see a skull and crossbones logo. Instead, the most intimidating signs read, “Warning biohazard” and “Radioactive Material.”

After my husband’s hospitalization last week, his doctors recommended a number of specialty tests, including a VQ, which studies ventilation and perfusion (airways, lungs, and blood clots). The VQ took us to Nuclear Medicine—a place we never dared wander before.

Miss Molly and I thank you for your prayers during William’s hospitalization last week.

Our welcome by technicians and the receptionist felt genuine. William went directly to his appointment, as the technician stood waiting for him to arrive. Her instruction and explanations soothed and enlightened William on the procedure. Without Molly near, he fought dizziness and a panic attack during the scan. In no time, my husband finished his VQ and met me in the lobby. His PTSD wrapped around him like a giant hand squeezing the life from him. I drove through the countryside on the way home, hoping he would relax.

“It’s the isotopes they pump into you. I know what they do to you.” William guzzled down water I brought for our trip home. He spoke in between gulps. By the time we reached home, his attack subsided. Molly rushed him at the door, slobbering over him with a tail wag sufficient to bat a home run. 

Test Your VQ IQ 

Try your hand at answering these six questions about Nuclear Medicine and the VQ (answers are found at the end of the blog).

1. What does the acronym VQ stand for?
a.       Vascular Quotient
b.      Ventilation Quota
c.       Vincent Quincy (the inventor of the test)
d.      No one knows
2. How many mrems/ounces of radiation do you receive during a VQ?
a.       300 mrems and less than 1/10th of a billionth of an ounce
b.      500 mrems and 3 ounces
c.       1,500 mrems and 1/100th of an ounce
d.      500 rems (1 rem = 1,000 mrems) and 6 ounces
3. Which contains more mrems?
a.       The amount of a typical coast-to-coast flight in the US
b.      A VQ at the VA [not to be confused with a DQ (Dairy Queen) after the VA]
4. How many nuclear medicine centers are there in the US and how many procedures do they perform annually?
a.       16 centers, performing 10,000 procedures
b.      100 centers (2 in each state), performing over one million procedures
c.       5,000 centers, performing 18 million procedures
d.      One in every hospital; no one tabulates the total number of procedures
5. How long has nuclear medicine been performed?
a.       Since 2007
b.      Before 1999
c.       Since 1974
d.      Before 1955
6. What is the question most commonly asked of technicians before a Nuclear Medicine test?
a.       Will I die from the test?
b.      Will the dye stay in my system for long?
c.       Will I glow after receiving the isotopes?
d.      How long before I hear the results?

 What are the Facts about Nuclear Medicine? 

If you hear you need an appointment with Nuclear Medicine, do not panic. The procedure touts complete safety. Procedures allow for early detection and can even treat certain diseases such as some forms of cancer and hyperthyroidism. As a diagnostic tool, Nuclear Medicine can identify abnormal lesions deep in the body without surgery and tell if organs are functioning normally. It measures blood pumping through the heart, determines if the brain receives adequate blood, and shows if the brain cells are functioning properly. It is helpful with kidney function, the digestive system, lung function, vitamin absorption, bone density, and even in determining if minute bone fractures exist.

The list of Nuclear Medicine benefits goes on much like a list of movie credits. Since its application does not hurt and does not cause damage to the body, it surfaces as a star in the theatre of medicine!

If you would like more information, check out “What is nuclear medicine?” published by the Society of Nuclear Medicine.

VQ IQ Answers 

  1. (d) No one knows; actually someone knows somewhere in the world. The technician told me the ‘V’ stands for Ventilation but the ‘Q’ comes from a Latin word she did not remember. I have not found the Latin word on-line so please let our Molly blog readers know if you have the full answer.
  2. (a) 300 mrems and less than 1/10th of a billionth of an ounce; William dabbled in Nuclear Engineering after Vietnam. He indicated that daily exposure in the plant was about 200 rem, which is 200,000 mrems (of course much of that exposure was done in protective suits). The exposure was so high when working on the impellers that they were limited to ten minutes of work per day due to the high exposure level of radiation.
  3. (a) The amount of a typical coast-to-coast flight in the US; we also are exposed to radiation in space, rocks, soil, some building materials, smoke detectors, color television sets, domestic water, luminous dial watches, and clocks.
  4. (c) 5,000 centers, performing 18 million procedures; over 333 million procedures in the US have been performed since the dawn of Nuclear Medicine
  5. (d) Before 1955; OMG, Nuclear Medicine is older than I am!
  6. (c) Will I glow after receiving the isotopes? Seriously? By the way, the Society of Nuclear Medicine says you will not glow.

Post your Comments: 

Have you ever had a procedure or scan, using Nuclear Medicine? Please reply below. 

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.

2 thoughts on “(109) Nuke Me, Baby: The Veteran and Radiopharmaceuticals

  1. Tina

    I wish I would have known you were up in the VA hospital last week. I was there with my sister for three days. Hope William is better. Please let me know if I can help.

    • Penelope Culbreth-Graft Post author

      I’m so sorry to hear your sister was hospitalized, too. I do hope she is doing better. I figured one of these days we would run into each other. It seems like the VA hospital is our home-away-from-home. Thank you for your offer of help. The same goes to you and your sister.

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