An exciting new addition to the Hermanus Medical Village in De Goede Street, which already comprises a Day Hospital, Oncology Centre, Spescare facility and Elderly Care Place, is Dr Annalie Viviers’ Nuclear Medicine practice. This state-of-the-art facility is another first for Hermanus – and a superior diagnostic tool for specialists in a wide range of medical fields.
Annalie already owns three practices in Gauteng and was convinced by Dr John Duminy, head of the Hermanus Oncology Centre, whom she has known for many years, to open a practice in Hermanus. By May the new facility was set up and Annelie celebrated the official opening with a small function on 14 June. While she commutes regularly between Hermanus and Johannesburg, Annelie relies on her two right hands, Nuclear Medicine Radiographer Jo-Anne Dreyer and practice manager Manda Cronje, to keep the wheels running smoothly.
So what exactly is nuclear medicine? Basically it makes use of tiny amounts of radioactive materials called radioisotypes that are linked to organ-specific agents to form radioactive tracers, which can be inhaled or swallowed by, or injected into, the patient. These radioactive tracers (or radiopharmaceuticals) then accumulate in specific organs, bone, tissue or systems and emit gamma rays for medical imaging.
These highly accurate scans allow specialists to view and assess the physiological structure and functioning of specific parts of the human body. At Hermanus Nuclear Medicine, this medical imaging is done by an impressive-looking Mediso Gamma Camera that provides very precise images, allowing for conditions and diseases to be identified at a much earlier stage.
Nuclear medicine is used in a number of branches of medicine including oncology, cardiology, neurology and endocrinology, specifically thyroid conditions. While most nuclear medicine procedures are performed for diagnostic or evaluation purposes, therapeutic applications of medical radioisotopes also allow for targeted, non-invasive treatment. It is a safe procedure to undergo, as the level of radiation the patient is exposed to is often lower than that received during an X-ray – and much more accurate.
Demand for nuclear medicine is being driven by increases in the incidence of cancers and cardiovascular disease, and by the growing number of new applications for medical radioisotopes, including the study of neurological and psychiatric diseases. Nuclear medicine imaging does not, like X-rays, reveal the structural anatomy of the body; rather, it shows the physiological functioning of the body and allows the measurement of its biological and chemical processes.
“We receive referrals from a variety of specialists,” says Annelie, “including oncologists, cardiologists, orthopaedic surgeons, physicians, urologists and paediatricians. Nuclear medicine enables us to pinpoint the exact location of a condition or disease, including lesions, tumours and stress fractures. It is of tremendous benefit to physicians and surgeons when it comes to diagnosing a problem, planning a surgery or deciding on a course of treatment.”