PET/CT: A New Dimension In Imaging

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Imaging & Radiology

It’s an imaging device that even Superman, with his celebrated X-ray vision, would envy.

“Saddleback Memorial’s PET/CT scanner is one of the most advanced medical imaging techniques available today,” says Director of Radiology Robert Pompei, M.D. “It combines two modalities—computed tomography and positron emission tomography—resulting in images that are unprecedented for the detection and monitoring of cancer, neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease.”

By “fusing” together these two modalities, the PET/CT scanner gives doctors the ability to pinpoint the precise location of any abnormalities and study their metabolic growth. The result: certain diseases can now be diagnosed at their earliest, most treatable stages.

3-D Imaging

Here’s how it works: Both PET and CT enable physicians to see inside the body. Computed tomography takes numerous cross-sectional X-ray images that are then combined by a computer to create a three-dimensional image of the body part being studied. It enables physicians to identify lesions and masses that may be either benign or cancerous, and to pinpoint their location.

On the other hand, positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear medicine imaging technique that helps doctors measure changes or abnormalities in the body at a metabolic or functional level. “Changes in cell processing are the first indications of cancer and they are often detectable long before the significance of structural abnormalities are apparent,” says Dr. Pompei. Since PET is highly sensitive to even small changes in tissue metabolism, it’s invaluable in the early diagnosis of cancer and may detect the disease and other abnormalities much earlier than a CT scan alone. By combining the two modalities, doctors can see exactly where an abnormality is located and determine whether it’s cancerous—all in the same test.

New Level of Treatment

PET/CT scans can also reveal whether a malignancy has spread and help doctors assess the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. “The PET/CT scan takes the diagnosis and treatment of cancer to a new level,” says Dr. Pompei. The PET/CT scanner has other important uses as well: detecting certain forms of heart disease, diagnosing early-stage Alzheimer’s, and identifying the origin of epileptic seizures.

For more information about radiology services at visit Imaging Services.