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Efficiency and effectiveness are inseparable in clinical medicine. Digital PET addresses them both. The key is the detector built into Philips Healthcare’s digital Vereos PET/CT.

Because photons generated during a PET exam are counted individually, digital detectors can record more such events per second than analog ones.

The University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMC) often leverages this on its Vereos to produce images with very high quality. Alternatively, UVMC uses Vereos to shorten scan time while still producing diagnostic quality images.

“When there is a big leap in sensitivity like you see from analog to digital, you have to look at what you are going to do with it,” said Jay Kikut, M.D., director of nuclear medicine and PET/CT at the UVMC. “For oncology patients, our decision is clear — we want to use it for improved image quality.”

This is paramount when clinicians use Vereos to make diagnoses and stage cancer patients. “Vereos provides us very accurate staging of our patients,” he said. “To have the best outcome, you have to match the treatments to the stage.” Exactly staging patients leads to a more individualized choice of therapy.

Oncological applications account for about 80 percent of PET scans done at UVMC. (The remaining 20 percent of PET/CTs examine the heart or brain.)

When set to deliver maximum spatial resolution, the increased sensitivity achieved through digital PET is used to detect very small lesions. Alternatively, some patients at UVMC are best served by scans that minimize time spent inside the PET/CT bore. Such shorter exams might be chosen for children or patients who are uncomfortable in tight spaces to minimize the movement that can cause image artifacts.

Although the scans may be substantially shorter — five or even three minutes versus the 15 needed with an analog detector — Vereos’ PET acquisitions can still deliver high diagnostic quality, he said.

Development of the Digital Photon Counting (DPC) technology, which serves as Vereos’ backbone, is the latest pivotal moment in the history of PET/CT, according to Dhruv Mehta, a senior product manager at Philips Healthcare. The first occurred some 20 years ago with the hybridization of PET with CT. The second was the development of time-of-flight (introduced first-to-market by Philips Healthcare), which helps localize lesions and improves signal-to-noise. Fully digital PET with DPC technology is the latest advancement affecting this hybrid, Mehta said.

“It is really the next generation of PET/CT,” he said.

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