Isotopes used in Medicine
Many radioisotopes are made in nuclear reactors, some in cyclotrons. Generally neutron-rich ones and those resulting from nuclear fission need to be made in reactors, neutron-depleted ones are made in cyclotrons. There are about 40 activation product radioisotopes and five fission product ones made in reactors.
Reactor Radioisotopes (half-life indicated)
Bismuth-213 (46 min): Used for targeted alpha therapy (TAT), especially cancers.
Chromium-51 (28 d): Used to label red blood cells and quantify gastro-intestinal protein loss.
Cobalt-60 (5.27 yr): Formerly used for external beam radiotherapy.
Dysprosium-165 (2 h): Used as an aggregated hydroxide for synovectomy treatment of arthritis.
Erbium-169 (9.4 d): Use for relieving arthritis pain in synovial joints.
Holmium-166 (26 h): Being developed for diagnosis and treatment of liver tumours.
Iodine-125 (60 d): Used in cancer brachytherapy (prostate and brain), also diagnostically to evaluate the filtration rate of kidneys and to diagnose deep vein thrombosis in the leg. It is also widely used in radioimmuno-assays to show the presence of hormones in tiny quantities.
Iodine-131 (8 d)*: Widely used in treating thyroid cancer and in imaging the thyroid; also in diagnosis of abnormal liver function, renal (kidney) blood flow and urinary tract obstruction. A strong gamma emitter, but used for beta therapy.
Iridium-192 (74 d): Supplied in wire form for use as an internal radiotherapy source for cancer treatment (used then removed).
Iron-59 (46 d): Used in studies of iron metabolism in the spleen.
Lutetium-177 (6.7 d): Lu-177 is increasingly important as it emits just enough gamma for imaging while the beta radiation does the therapy on small (eg endocrine) tumours. Its half-life is long enough to allow sophisticated preparation for use. It is usually produced by neutron activation of natural or enriched lutetium-176 targets.
Molybdenum-99 (66 h)*: Used as the 'parent' in a generator to produce technetium-99m.
Palladium-103 (17 d): Used to make brachytherapy permanent implant seeds for early stage prostate cancer.
Phosphorus-32 (14 d): Used in the treatment of polycythemia vera (excess red blood cells). Beta emitter.
Potassium-42 (12 h): Used for the determination of exchangeable potassium in coronary blood flow.
Rhenium-186 (3.8 d): Used for pain relief in bone cancer. Beta emitter with weak gamma for imaging.
Rhenium-188 (17 h): Used to beta irradiate coronary arteries from an angioplasty balloon.
Samarium-153 (47 h): Sm-153 is very effective in relieving the pain of secondary cancers lodged in the bone, sold as Quadramet. Also very effective for prostate and breast cancer. Beta emitter.
Selenium-75 (120 d): Used in the form of seleno-methionine to study the production of digestive enzymes.
Sodium-24 (15 h): For studies of electrolytes within the body.
Strontium-89 (50 d)*: Very effective in reducing the pain of prostate and bone cancer. Beta emitter.
Technetium-99m (6 h): Used in to image the skeleton and heart muscle in particular, but also for brain, thyroid, lungs (perfusion and ventilation), liver, spleen, kidney (structure and filtration rate), gall bladder, bone marrow, salivary and lacrimal glands, heart blood pool, infection and numerous specialised medical studies. Produced from Mo-99 in a generator.
Xenon-133 (5 d)*: Used for pulmonary (lung) ventilation studies.
Ytterbium-169 (32 d): Used for cerebrospinal fluid studies in the brain.
Ytterbium-177 (1.9 h): Progenitor of Lu-177.
Yttrium-90 (64 h)*: Used for cancer brachytherapy and as silicate colloid for the relieving the pain of arthritis in larger synovial joints. Pure beta emitter and of growing significance in therapy.
Radioisotopes of caesium, gold and ruthenium are also used in brachytherapy.
* fission product