The body PET Scan is an application of nuclear medicine. The scanning device makes three-dimensional images by detecting nuclear particles called positrons as they are emitted from particular organs of the body. Some people have compared the PET scan to a very sensitive and high-resolution Geiger counter or radiation detector. The initials P.E.T. stand for positron emission tomography (“tomography” means imaging).
The PET scan makes use of substances made radioactive by being bombarded by nuclear materials in a cyclotron (an “atom smasher”). The radioactive material is “tagged” to a natural substance, usually a form of glucose, to make a “tracer.” The radioactive tracer is ingested or injected into the body. The radioactive tracer will be subject to the body’s natural processes. The PET scan can detect the tracer as it is processed by particular organs of the body which absorb it.
The PET scan device detects the positrons emitted from the tracer and can determine how the glucose was used by the organs of the body. It makes an image of the points where the energy impacts the sensors in the scanner (much like a digital x-ray). The scanner turns around the body allowing those points to be located in three dimensions on a computer screen. PET scans are very important for the diagnosis of cancers and other disorders before surgery.
The first PET scan devices were developed in the 1950s at the University of Pennsylvania and the Washington University medical school. These PET scan devices made two-dimensional images on photographic film. Today’s PET scans use computer aided technology to generate the three-dimensional imagery which makes location within the body much more precise.
PET scans are frequently used along with other forms of imaging like CAT scans (Computer Aided Tomography or three-dimensional x-rays) and MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Images from these additional sources add different kinds of information. The CAT scan yields precise images of the body structure. The MRI provides information about the functioning of organs.
Glendale MRI Institute offers top quality medical imaging in Southern California. Please contact us for more information.