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New PET scan method can cut staff radiation exposure

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Researchers in Manchester say they have used recent advances in PET scanning technology to reduce the radiation dose for both staff and patients by up to 30%.

An FDG PET scan is commonly carried out to identify areas with high glucose metabolism, such as tumours, to aid diagnosis, staging and treatment monitoring.

“We have managed to lower the radiation dose for cancer patients and our staff and also increase the numbers of scans we are able to carry out”

Ian Armstrong

The required injection of a radioactive “tracer”, which is taken up by the tumour tissue, means there is an associated radiation dose for the patient and staff at the imaging facility.

However, a new study by Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Manchester University has found technological developments in scanner equipment over the last decade could allow a reduction in the amount of radioactive tracer used.

PET imaging relies on the detection of simultaneous pairs of gamma rays produced when positron particles emitted by the injected tracer interact inside the body.

The researchers looked at a new analysis approach using time-of-flight (TOF) information, which utilises the faster detectors present in modern PET systems to more accurately locate the source of each pair of rays.

They found that by making use of TOF information, they could reduce the number of “counts”, or individual gamma ray pairs, they measured. As a result, for the same quality of image, they could reduce the injected radioactive dose, or scan for a shorter period of time.

“We’ve decided to use this improvement to do both – reduce the administered activity and the scan time,” said Ian Armstrong, a nuclear medicine physicist who led the study.

“As a result, we have managed to lower the radiation dose for cancer patients and our staff and also increase the numbers of scans we are able to carry out,” he added.

The study findings have recently been published in the journal Nuclear Medicine Communications.

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