NOVEMBER 26--Duke University Medical Center (Durham, NC; www.gemedical.com) is the first medical institution to complete 15,000 scans on a positron-emission-tomography (PET) scanner, an imaging technology that allows physicians and technologists to detect and treat some of the most serious health problems in oncology, neurology, and cardiology. The 15,000th patient scan was performed with the GE Advance PET scanner, manufactured by GE Medical Systems, which is a unit of General Electric Company. The PET scanner at Duke was the first GE system of its kind to be installed in the country.
The Duke scanner, which was installed in 1992, has also been used in more than 2000 research studies. Since the system's installation and as technology improved, Duke added GE PET system upgrades, which steadily enhanced the capabilities of the scanner.
PET differs from x-ray and other imaging technologies because it creates images of high metabolic activity in the body, rather than creating anatomical images only. Most PET scans are performed for the evaluation of tumors. Before having a PET scan, patients receive a dose of a tracer containing a substance that mimics sugar. This tracer accumulates in tumor cells more than in normal cells. During the scan, the tracer is detected by the PET system, which creates an image of the patient and highlights any abnormal accumulation. This image helps physicians determine if a cancer disease is present, its location and extent, and how rapidly it is spreading.