UNM Hospital has just received New Mexico's first dedicated PET scan, a state-of-the art piece of equipment that will be used for diagnostics and to enhance training in a number of medical specialties.

"Until now we've used a machine capable of performing some types of PET scans at the Veterans Administration Medical Center for medical training, diagnostics and research," said Fred Mettler, M.D., chair, UNM School of Medicine department of Radiology. "With this equipment, we will have the state's first dedicated PET Scan. This equipment will enhance UNM's nuclear medicine, radiology and oncology training and residency programs and provide physicians with state-of-the art diagnostics."

Funding for the equipment was made possible through a grant from the State of New Mexico and through the efforts of former Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Cristina Beato, M.D., currently serving as U.S. Senior Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services. The machine has been installed and calibrated and is now in daily use, said Mettler.

Positron emission tomography or PET imaging is a sophisticated, non-invasive way to study the biochemistry and physiologic function of the human body. PET differs from other imaging techniques such as computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by evaluating metabolic activity rather than anatomic structures. PET is the only method that can detect and display metabolic changes in tissue, distinguish normal tissue from those that are diseased, such as in cancer, differentiate viable from dead or dying tissue, show regional blood flow, and determine the distribution and fate of drugs in the body.

With PET imaging, a patient receives by intravenous injection a solution of glucose and fluorine 18, a mildly radioactive solution with a half-life of about 110 minutes. Glucose naturally moves to centers of the body with higher metabolic rates such as to the brain and to tumors. Fluorine 18 provides a uniquely radioactive footprint with positrons that radiate outward from the body in two directions, 180 degrees apart. After receiving the solution, patients then lie on the diagnostic table as a computerized ring moves along the length of the body reading the radioactive footprint.

The PET scans increased accuracy, effectiveness, and cost efficiency benefits patients in a number of ways. Among them are:

Oncology:
PET is unique and extremely useful in diagnosing and staging malignancies, such as lung, breast, GI tract, ovary, and musculoskeletal system, as well as in the post-treatment identification of tumor recurrence.

Neurology:
PET can assesses dementia, cerebro-vascular disease, and movement disorders, and intractable seizures.

Cardiology:
PET can define myocardial viability by assessing regional blood flow and metabolic functions in patients considered for coronary artery bypass and coronary angioplasty procedures.


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322