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Newly added PET/CT technology at HSHS St. Elizabeth’s aims to improve cancer diagnosis

HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital this week began offering patients a hybrid diagnostic imaging system.

hshsstelizabethslogoKnown as PET/CT, the system combines the strengths of two well-established imaging modalities in one imaging session to more accurately diagnose and locate cancers while increasing patient comfort.

The service is being started in conjunction with Shared Medical Services of Cottage Grove, Wisc. The PET-CT system will be available in a mobile unit at the hospital one day a week.

The new PET/CT technology at St. Elizabeth’s is 3D with a 16-slice scan for high-definition images. The results can be delivered to the referring physician’s office within 24 hours.

A PET/CT scan is noninvasive, painless and takes about 30 minutes. Along with providing better imaging data, it notably increases patient comfort and convenience by reducing the number of scanning sessions a patient must undergo. The procedure is covered by private insurance and Medicare.

PET, or positron emission tomography, monitors the biochemical functioning of cells by detecting how they process certain compounds, such as glucose (sugar). Cancer cells metabolize glucose at a much higher level than normal tissues. By detecting increased glucose use with a high degree of sensitivity, PET identifies cancerous cells – even at an early stage when other modalities may miss them. However, PET cannot pinpoint the exact size and location of tumors to a precision necessary for optimal diagnosis and treatment planning.

CT, or computed tomography, yields a detailed picture of the body’s anatomical structures by taking cross-sectional images or X-ray slices of the body. While CT does an excellent job of depicting structures and anatomy, it may miss small or early stage tumors.

Currently, physicians can overlay the results of PET and CT scans performed separately to identify and locate tumors. However, because a patient may not be positioned identically for both scans, the two images can be difficult to line up exactly, degrading the accuracy of the diagnostic information.

The combined PET/CT machine allows physicians to rapidly perform both scans in one session without having to move the patient. This means physicians can precisely overlay the metabolic data of the PET scan and the detailed anatomic data of the CT scan to pinpoint the location and stage of tumors.

This investment in technology is part of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s goal to provide the best cancer care and convenience to patients, close to home. The hospital recently received the Commission on Cancer Care (CoC) accreditation for its cancer care program from the American College of Surgeons.

While PET/CT is primarily used in cancer treatment, it also has applications in cardiology and brain imaging, and it will help physicians better understand the workings of heart disease and such neurological disorders as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is part of the Southern Illinois Division of Hospital Sisters Health System, which also includes HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese, HSHS Holy Family Hospital in Greenville, and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland.

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