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PET/CT

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center offers the Discovery PET/CT from GE Medical Systems, the first fully integrated Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Computed Tomography (CT) system. The GE Discovery ST is a PET/CT system designed to help physicians diagnose and localize cancer faster than ever before. In addition, there are only 788 nationally registered PET Techs. 3 of them are here at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center!

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center’s fixed PET/CT is available for physician and patient convenience Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 4:00pm in the Medical Office Building, located at 1032 Mar Walt Drive, behind the main hospital.

What is PET/CT?

The Discovery ST PET/CT combines the fastest and most sophisticated Computed Tomography (CT) technology with the most advanced Positron Emission Tomography (PET) technology - all in a single exam. The PET creates images of high metabolic activity in the body, while the CT scan creates images of the internal structures within the human body. Together, the PET/CT scan allows physicians to view metabolic activity in two and three dimensional images in diagnosing and treating cancer. Specifically, the Discovery ST system provides physicians with accurate location of lesions, identification of benign versus malignant lesions, and differentiation from scar tissue. It also provides valuable information to help physicians stage cancer, aid in surgical and radiation treatment planning, and monitor the effectiveness of treatment and adjust plans during the treatment, rather than at the end of treatment.

Actual PET/CT Scan of upper thoracic region. As you can see above, PET/CT combines traditional CT Scans and PET Scans giving more detailed results.

To understand the concept of PET/CT better, think about a satellite weather map seen on the news. The map reveals weather patterns gathered by satellites that show storm intensities. A geographic map of the United States shows an accurate depiction of location and proximity. With one image on top of the other, people can see what areas are being affected by adverse weather so they can respond quickly. In the same sense, by combining a PET image and a CT image into a PET/CT image, physicians can more accurately treat patients. This concept is illustrated below:

A PET scan reveals areas of abnormal activity, but the exact location is unknown. A satellite weather image shows areas of intense weather activity, but does not illustrate a geographic context to fully understand the image.

The CT image precisely displays the body’s anatomy, but does not reveal the body’s functional chemistry. The map of the United States shows the outlines of the states, but does not show weather activity.

PET/CT Image

A geographic map (structural) combined with a satellite image of weather patterns (functional) shows exactly where severe weather is headed so people can prepare accordingly. By blending the functional and structural body images into a PET/CT image, physicians can now see problem areas and know precisely where this activity is taking place to help them make appropriate treatment decisions.

There are tremendous benefits of having a combined PET/CT Scan:

  • Earlier diagnosis
  • Accurate staging and localization
  • Precise treatment and monitoring

With the high-tech images that the PET/CT scanner provides, patients are given a better chance at a good outcome and avoid unnecessary procedures. A PET/CT image also provides early detection of the recurrence of cancer, revealing tumors that might otherwise be obscured by scar tissue that results from surgery and radiation therapy, particularly in the head and neck.

In the past, difficulties arose from trying to interpret the results of a CT scan done at a different time and location than a PET scan because the patient’s body position changed. The combination PET/CT provides physicians with a more complete picture of what is occurring in the body, both anatomically and metabolically, at the same time.