The Radiology department has acquired a new Positron Emission Tomography-PET/CT scanner. This state of the art technology analyzes abnormal cell function, and when used in conjunction with Computed Tomography (CT), gives essential functional information as well as precise lesion location, shape and size. It is an exciting, new, important tool which provides more accurate diagnoses for such prevalent health conditions as epilepsy and childhood cancers.
The importance of PET imaging is that it provides a non-invasive picture of cellular metabolism even before anatomical change can be appreciated. PET maps the body’s biochemistry using sugar metabolism, which can be present in larger amounts than normal when active growth is occurring such as in the case of tumors.
The majority of PET scans start with an injection of a sugar-based radiopharmaceutical (F 18-FDG), which then travels throughout the body. The PET/CT scan then produces digital images of the targeted organs. If an abnormal condition is present then the signal will be stronger since the FDG concentrates where the glucose utilization rate is higher. Tumors use more sugar than normal tissues, and so will be bright. In patients with epilepsy the epileptogenic portion of the brain uses less glucose because it is diseased and may be abnormally dark. It is thus extremely important that patients come for the study with normal levels of sugar, so that the Radiologists can appreciate the differences between normal and abnormal sugar levels. Sugar intake needs to be stopped the night before the exam; this would include such hydration staples as Pedialyte or Gatorade, and of course no dessert for supper the night before. Patients should not eat after midnight. For more age-adjusted details, please contact the Radiology’s scheduling department at (305) 669 6437.
Patients should also avoid strenuous exercise and caffeine intake the day prior to coming in for the PET/CT exam; as these two factors can change the body’s metabolic composition. They should dress warmly and comfortably, because cold can send sugar to shivering muscles instead of the target organ. The study is complex and lengthy, requiring sedation for younger children who may not be able to hold still for the examination. Time in the scanner will usually be between 30 minutes to1 hour, and including preparation time for the study you should plan on spending several hours in the department. When you are scheduled for your study, the department will explain the other arrangements necessary to perform this challenging study.
PET/CT imaging can help to differentiate between a benign and malignant condition. This technique is a window into the body’s function and can help physicians and parents make faster and more precise informed decisions regarding prognosis and treatment.