Positron Emission Tomography
By: Carrie Burke
Positron Emission Tomography, also called PET imaging or a PET scan, is a type of nuclear medicine imaging. Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities within the body.
How is Positron Emission Tomography used? Positron Emission Tomography is a nuclear medicine procedure. It uses a radioactive material called a radiopharmaceutical or radiotracer, which is injected into your bloodstream, swallowed or inhaled as a gas. This radioactive material accumulates in the organ or area of your body that is being examined, where it gives off a small amount of energy in the form of gamma rays. A gamma camera, PET scanner, or probe detects this energy and with the help of a computer creates pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and tissues in your body.
How was this technology developed? The concept of emission and transmission tomography was introduced by David E. Kuhl and Roy Edwards in the late 1950s.Their work later led to the design and construction of several tomographic instruments at the University of Pennsylvania then were further developed later on. Gordon Brownell, Charles Burnham and others at the Massachusetts General Hospital began working on the machine in the 1950s. They demonstrated the first usage of the device.
What medical conditions does it help us treat? PET and PET/CT scans are performed to help us detect cancer, determine whether a cancer has spread to further parts of the body, assess the effectiveness of a treatment plan, such as cancer therapy, determine blood flow to the heart muscle, determine the effects of a heart attack, identify areas of the heart muscle that would benefit from different procedures, evaluate brain abnormalities such as tumours, memory disorders and seizures,...