October 30, 2018
Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) is the radioactive isotope responsible for 80 percent of the nuclear medical imaging procedures performed in the world.
Though the element technetium was discovered in the 1930s, it wasn’t readily available for imaging procedures until three Brookhaven researchers developed a way to generate the isotope on the spot in hospitals. Their invention, a Tc-99m “generator,” changed the face of nuclear medicine simply by creating accessibility.
Today these Tc-99m “shake-n-bake” kits, as the scientists dubbed them, allow for more than just cardiac stress tests. Tc-99m is used in bone scans, brain imaging, to monitor a number of other diseases, and even to identify cancer cells. Its importance as a medical tracer has become unparalleled, and its accessibility is the key to its success.