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These are detected by a PET camera and give very precise indications of their origin.
PET's most important clinical role is in oncology, with fluorine-18 as the tracer, since it has proven to be the most accurate non-invasive method of detecting and evaluating most cancers. New procedures combine PET with computed X-ray tomography (CT) scans to give co-registration of the two images (PET-CT), enabling 30% better diagnosis than with a traditional gamma camera alone.
In Australia there are about 560,000 per year, 470,000 of these using reactor isotopes.
The use of radiopharmaceuticals in diagnosis is growing at over 10% per year.
In developed countries (a quarter of the world population) about one person in 50 uses diagnostic nuclear medicine each year, and the frequency of therapy with radioisotopes is about one-tenth of this.
The most common radioisotope used in diagnosis is technetium-99 (Tc-99), with some 40 million procedures per year, accounting for about 80% of all nuclear medicine procedures worldwide.Single photon emission computerised tomography (SPECT) is the current major scanning technology to diagnose and monitor a wide range of medical conditions.A more recent development is positron emission tomography (PET) which is a more precise and sophisticated technique using isotopes produced in a cyclotron.Gamma imaging by either method described provides a view of the position and concentration of the radioisotope within the body.
Organ malfunction can be indicated if the isotope is either partially taken up in the organ (cold spot), or taken up in excess (hot spot).
A positron-emitting radionuclide is introduced, usually by injection, and accumulates in the target tissue.