Evolution of Nuclear Medicine in Turkey

In Turkey, nuclear medicine became a current issue for the first time in early 1950’s upon the personal initiative of Prof Suphi Artunkal in Istanbul. Dr Artunkal and his colleagues applied radioactive iodine (I-131) treatment in 1953 at the Radioisotope Laboratory that they established at Haseki Treatment Clinic. This radionuclide treatment, which was literally the very first medical application of radioisotopes in Turkey turned out positive results and constituted a turning point for starting and developing nuclear medicine in Turkey. In the years that followed, a series of actions were taken for spreading and institutionalizing nuclear medicine practices in Ankara and Istanbul. Upon commissioning of Çekmece Nuclear Research and Training Center in 1961, radioisotope production was started in Turkey putting our country among the first countries of Europe that used technetium isotope, which is extensively used in nuclear medicine today. In 1962, Prof Fevzi Renda and his colleagues established the Radiobiology Institute within the campus of Ankara University with the contribution of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) playing a crucial role in progression of nuclear medicine. This institute equipped with well-type counters, double probe external counting unit and linear scanners with the support of IAEA played a pivotal role in Nuclear Medicine Training in Turkey through scientific visits from USA and Europe. Radioiodine uptake, thyroid scintigraphy, liver scintigraphy performed with Rose-Bengal I-131 and colloidal Au-198, cerebral perfusion scintigraphy with I-131 IHSA and kidney scintigraphy with Hg-203 Chlormerodrine are among the first nuclear medical diagnostic methods applied in this institute. In 1965, the first rectilinear scanner was procured for the Radioisotope Laboratory of Istanbul University that laid the foundation for the later Nuclear Medical Institute. Wet-lab methods and scintigraphies were started in 1962, color-dot scanning and dynamic work-up (blood flow – renogram) in 1965 and analogue scintillation camera and dynamic scintigraphic studies in 1967.

Nuclear medicine continued to evolve in Turkey with the initiatives and contributions of invaluable professors İrfan Urgancıoğlu, Ali Tan Işıtman, Tarık Kapucuoğlu, Vensan Seyahi, Coşkun Bekdik and their distinguished colleagues. These institutes turned out to be the Meccas of nuclear medicine activities in many years raising valuable doctors, physicians and technicians, who played a historic role in progression and extension of this field in our country. Upon approval of the Ministry of Health in 1974, Nuclear Medicine became a distinct field of specialization paving the way for establishment of new Nuclear Medicine departments in universities. The Turkish Nuclear Medicine Society founded in 1975 held its first national congress in Istanbul on October 26-28 1981 with the title the “1st National Nuclear Medicine and Biological Sciences Congress” under the presidency of Prof İrfan Urgancıoğlu.

Chronologically speaking, during the time that elapsed from the very first practices until today, nuclear medicine has showed a rapid development in parallel to international progress and standards becoming an extensive field of diagnosing and treating many diseases today. Statistically speaking, Nuclear Medicine practices in Turkey outrank many European countries in terms of quality, quantity and accessibility putting Turkey among the top countries that submit the highest number of research work to the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM) congresses. There has been a linear increase also in the number of international publications in the field of nuclear medicine in Turkey since 1990’s.