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Technetium-99m

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Technetium-99m is a nuclear isomer of Technetium-99, which is an isotope of Technetium. It is the most used medical radioisotope, used as a radioactive tracer which is traced in the body using gamma cameras. It emits gamma rays without beta rays making it useful as a medical tracer, there is less ionization as the gamma rays are absorbed outside of the body. Technetium-99m’s half-life makes it good to be put into the body, as its half-life is around 6 hours, so after 24 hours the Technetium-99m has almost completely been decayed to Technetium-99.

This means the patients exposure is limited as much as possible. There is enough time to collect the data using Technetium-99m but without causing too much damage to the patient. The isotope Technetium-99m is used as the other isotopes such as Technetium-95m have such longer half-lives, meaning they are unsuitable to be used in the human body as they cause too much exposure. The half-life for Technetium-95m is 61 days, and the half-life for Technetium-97 is years. Technetium-99m is a nuclear isomer of Technetium-99. The differences between the two isotopes are such like Technetium-99 has a half-life of years compared to Technetium-99m which has a half-life of only 6 hours. Also, when Technetium-99 decays into Ruthenium-99, it emits beta particles and no gamma rays, causing more ionization to the human body, so it is therefore more dangerous as a medical tracer.

Technetium-99m is used in diagnostic imaging procedures, by being bound to a pharmaceutical. Depending on the pharmaceutical used Technetium-99m can trace different things, such as infections if white blood cells are labelled. Or it can be used to show blood flowing through the heart and how well it does so. The dangers of using Technetium-99m are radiation exposure to anyone near such as the patients, people walking past and the technicians. The precautions are, keep Technetium-99m in a controlled environment, with signs on the doors preventing people walking into the environment and exposing themselves. Technetium-99m is safer than other isotopes due to its decay being able to be detected by gamma cameras, so less is needed to be used. In addition, Technetium-99m’s short half-life so it is decayed into the less radioactive Technetium-99 quickly, reducing exposure time.

When preparing individual patients doses, how much the Technetium-99m decays needs to be considered. So, if a batch of technetium-99m is prepared and 2 hours later is used, there will not be the original dosage. Therefore, the dosage is calculated by using the radioactivity of each dose and dividing by the concentration of the preparation. Technetium-99m is produced in hospitals due to its short half-life so in order for the hospitals to produce Technetium-99m, Molybdenum-99 is given instead. Molybdenum-99 is produced by bombarding Uranium with neutrons causing fission, to produce Mo-99. The hospitals place the Mo-99 in technetium generators to produce technetium-99m, as Mo-99 decays to form Tc-99m.

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