Position Emission Tomography Overview
UAB was the first center with a PET-CT scanner in Alabama. Positron Emission Tomography- Computed Tomography is an imaging test that combines a PET scan with a CT scan to provide a more complete picture of the body.
These sensitive tests give doctors a one-of-a-kind picture of what is happening in your body. The PET-CT scans are able to show tiny tumors in the body and small changes in the heart and brain. PET-CT puts time on your side with earlier detection of life-threatening diseases like cancer, heart disease, and dementia. With early detection there can be more successful treatment.
The metabolic activity of your cells (such as how they use sugars) can be imaged using PET-CT. Cancer cells typically use more sugar than regular cells. So by injecting a small amount of a sugar molecule with a radioactive tag (known as radiopharmaceuticals), cancer growth can be seen. The test can also tell how the cancer is responding to treatment.
In the brain, pictures of cellular activity can show problems such as Alzheimers, dementia, and epilepsy. After a heart attack, it can be difficult to determine if heart tissue has been killed or only damaged. PET is the most accurate way to tell the difference. PET can also look at blood flow and the effects of blockages in the coronary arteries. This test can help tell if someone is at risk for heart attack.
The uses of a PET scan are rapidly growing. UAB is a center for the development of many new radiopharmaceuticals which will push the boundaries on the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases.
Services Performed by UAB Radiology PET:
Cancer imaging is the most common reason doctors order a PET-CT scan. PET-CT offers a better evaluation of cancer or possible cancer than conventional imaging tests such as CT, X-ray, MRI, or Ultrasound.
For cancer, PET-CT can:
- Detect many cancers
- Better determine the extent of tumor spread
- Identify tumor recurrences
- Determine the effectiveness of cancer therapy
In the brain, PET-CT can help diagnose the cause of memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s dementia by looking at the pattern of changes in brain function. Areas causing seizures can also be pinpointed by pairing PET-CT results with tests such as MRI, EEG, and Nuclear Medicine images of the brain using SPECT during the seizure.
The uses of PET in the heart can check blood flow to the heart muscle and look for areas of decreased flow or ischemia. The test can help the physician decide if the patient would benefit from coronary bypass surgery or stenting. It can also determine the effects of a heart attack (myocardial infarct).