Integrated PET/CT: Current Applications and Future Directions

Radiology 2006 Feb;238(2):405-22. [Link]

Gustav K. von Schulthess, MD, PhD, Hans C. Steinert, MD and Thomas F. Hany, MD

From the Department of Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital of Zurich, Raemistrasse 100, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland. Received November 20, 2004; revision requested January 27, 2005; revision received February 21; accepted April 4; final version accepted, May 12; updated August 29. Address correspondence to G.K.v.S.


For the past 5 years, combined positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT), or PET/CT, has grown because the PET portion provides information that is very different from that obtainable with other imaging modalities. However, the paucity of anatomic landmarks on PET images makes a consistent "hardware fusion" to anatomic cross-sectional data extremely useful. Clinical experience indicates a single direction: Addition of CT to PET improves specificity foremost, but also sensitivity, and the addition of PET to CT adds sensitivity and specificity in tumor imaging. Thus, PET/CT is a more accurate test than either of its individual components and is probably also better than side-by-side viewing of images from both modalities. The synergistic advantage of adding CT is that the attenuation correction needed for PET can also be derived from the CT data, an advantage not obtainable by integrating PET and magnetic resonance imaging. This makes PET/CT 25%–30% faster than PET alone with standard attenuation-correction methods, leading to higher patient throughput and a more comfortable examination, which typically last 30 minutes or less. Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET/CT appears to provide relevant information in the staging and therapy monitoring of many tumors, including lung carcinoma, mesothelioma, colorectal cancer, lymphoma, melanoma, and many others, with the notable exception of prostatic cancer. For prostatic cancer, choline derivatives may become useful radiopharmaceuticals. The published literature on the applications of FDG PET/CT in oncology is still limited, but several well-designed studies have demonstrated the benefits of PET/CT.