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A more accurate tumor scanner that saves money.

University of Florida (UF) researchers in Gainesville, Fla., report that basic nuclear medicine equipment can scan tumors and major organs less expensively but just as accurately as high-tech imaging machines worth millions.

Their study results, published June 8 in International Pediatrics, say advances in the conventional imaging method known as SPEC make it highly accurate in detecting brain tumor activity.

The findings add fuel to a fiery national debate about which of several nuclear medicine imaging techniques works best. Both SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) and PET (positron emission tomography) use a computer to create cross-sectional pictures of parts of the body.

A radioactive compound is injected or ingested, emitting invisible gamma rays. Specialk equipment records the rays as flashes of light, creating pictures of the body part being examined.

Because it detects brain tumor activity, and not just tumor presence, SPECT is said to be superior to such common imaging tests as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computerized tomography).

"It's very promising, because it's cheaper and it provides new information about the treatment of brain tumors," says Dr. Bernard Maria, chief of pediatric neurology and director of neuro-onocology at UF's College of Medicine.

One PET center costs as much as $6 million to set up and $1 million a year to operate, says UF radiology professor Dr. Walt Drane. UF's SPECT imaging reduces the cost of a heart scan to about $900, compared to $2,500 for a comparable PET scan.

SPECT can also be used to determine whether portions of the heart muscle are alive or dead. If heart muscle had died after the heart attack, bypass surgery or angioplasty will do no good. Dr. Drane estimates that as many as 40 percent of patients tested with SPECT scans could avoid the expense and risk of needless surgery.
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Title Annotation:single photon emission computed tomography
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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