Published on the June 8, 2011, DiagnosticImaging.com
By Whitney L.J. Howell
Design and structure improvements in PET and MRI scanners could soon alter how you practice nuclear medicine. These changes have made combining the scans for clinical treatment a possibility, according to a presentation at this week’s Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) annual meeting in San Antonio.
The PET/MRI combination scanner first appeared in the mid-1990s in mouse-model cancer research conducted at the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis), but using it clinically has been impossible until now. Not only have MRI magnets distorted colors and images from nearby PET scanners, but there also hasn’t been enough space inside an MRI to accommodate a PET.
Those problems no longer exist. Using LCD screens instead of CRT screens in PET scanners prevents image distortion, and installing higher-performing gradients frees up space – 70 cm rather than 55 cm – to install a PET inside an MRI, says Bruce Rosen, M.D., Ph.D., radiology professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital. The wider space also reduces anxiety for patients who are claustrophobic.
Given these changes, companies, including Siemens and GE, are now working to commercialize combination scanners.
“It’s important that the technology is now advanced so these scans can play well together,” says Rosen, who delivered the SNM’s PET/MRI presentation. “Running tests simultaneously lets radiologists diagnose a problem and see how it’s working real-time. It can also save patients the inconvenience of having tests at different times.”
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