Positron emission tomography (PET) is somewhat of a special medical imaging modality in that it brings together two different technologies from different times. Let me explain. Back in the early 1930s, George Hevesy was a young Hungarian physicist who developed biologically safe and useful radioactive tracers that could be ingested or incorporated into the body in some way. Physicians would then manually locate where these radioactive tracers had gone in the body by using a Geiger counter at first and then later using special cameras (Kuhl‘s photoscan) to produce a crude emission image.
So, how do we get cool pictures like these ones? Well we would have to wait another 25 years after the development of radioactive tracers by Hevesy for the start of construction of instruments able to not only detect these radioactive sources in the body but to produce tomographic pictures.
It won’t be until the mid 1970s that PET – as we know it today – would be born. Essentially, a patient receives a emissions scan (PET) and a CT (we talked about that here) or MRI (we talked about that here) scan at the same time. The two scans are then merged together thanks to highly specialized computers (see the pictures in the middle frames). Voila! PET.
PET is both a medical and research tool. Most often used in clinical oncology (medical imaging of tumors and the search for metastases), it is also important in clinical diagnosis of certain diffuse brain diseases such Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Relax your brain a little listening to Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and don’t forget the fun part (see the rules here), using PET scan in a sentence by the end of the day:
Serious: Hey Bob, did you know that much of the success of the PET scan is due to the development of the radiopharmaceutical FDG (deoxyglucose) that lead the way to the characterization of Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease?
Less serious: I can’t believe they developed yet another PET scan. Wasn’t the CAT scan enough?
See you in the blogosphere,