Positron Emission Tomography (PET) – Computed Tomography (CT) has been the most rapidly growing diagnostic imaging modality of the past four years. PET has almost a limitless variety of applications in oncologic diagnosis, staging, restaging, and treatment evaluation. The highly sensitive PET scan picks up the metabolic signal of actively growing cancer cells in the body, and CT produces high-resolution anatomic images that reveal the size and shape of abnormal cancerous growths. By combining these two imaging modalities, scanners can overcome the inherent limitations of each to offer better solutions in terms of functions and usability to the hospitals.
Fusion Imaging Gains Acceptance
PET-CT, a high-end technology has found wide acceptance globally because of its quality, precision, accuracy, and versatile diagnostic capabilities. The reception has been very encouraging in the Asian region as evident from the increase in the PET-CT systems installed in the region. In South Korea alone, there were approximately 18 installations for the year 2004 which has been significantly higher than the previous year.
In the Asia Pacific region, these hybrid devices are appreciably outselling PET scanners individually. In Australia the last four PET devices installed have all been hybrid instruments. Presently, more than 65 percent of current PET sales have been PET-CT, and this figure is likely to grow more than 95 percent next year. This technology is becoming hugely popular because of its ability to offer combined anatomical and metabolic imaging, as this goes beyond the simple amalgamation of images and ultimately benefits the diagnosis.
More prominently, the shift to hybrid PET-CT from stand-alone PET is attributed to the superior clinical flexibility that a dual-modality scanner can present as compared to a stand-alone modality. This advantage is persuading more and more number of clinicians to make use of the benefits derived out of using these two devices together.
Hybrid Model Offers Enhanced Revenues for Hospitals
Particularly, the demand for PET-CT has been high from the radiology departments, since they can be used to perform stand-alone CT scans there, while awaiting the increase of PET procedure volume in the nuclear medicine and oncology departments. This justifies the use of the CT part of the PET-CT scanner for justifying the investments in the technology. Hospitals are now combining the resources from two or more clinical department instead of relying on a single department’s budget.
In a study conducted at a major hospital in the Asian region involving 98 patients affected with various forms of cancer, it was found that PET-CT was successful in diagnosing the presence of cancer in 77 percent of cases. In comparison, a whole-body Magnetic Resonance Imaging was able to do so in only 55 percent of them.
In addition, this technology has been remarkably successful at increasing the patient throughput and in providing better radiation therapy planning. It further contributed to a change in patient management from a condition of 'no therapy' toward incorporating chemotherapy, radiotherapy and radiochemotherapy. This has convinced the medical community, especially the surgeons in whole-heartedly adopting PET-CT.
The whole-body PET/CT is the most sought-after strategy for whole-body tumor staging has been the general opinion amoung consultants and leading nuclear medicine researchers.
This technology offers immense scope for further development by improving the display software and computer infrastructure. It could strengthen the field of evidence-based medicine after working in close interaction and collaboration with nuclear medicine physicians, radiologists, surgeons, oncologists and referring physicians.
As the installed base of PET/CT scanners increases, there is also a great opportunity to extend the potential applications of metabolic imaging beyond cancer evaluation with fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG).
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