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Seattle Children's Hospital Developing PET-CT Imaging Protocols to Lower Radiation Exposure for Children

June 02, 2008

 Seattle Children’s Hospital has deployed a 64-slice GE Discovery VCT PET/CT, one of the most advanced medical imaging systems available today, to diagnose cancerous cells in early stages of development.

Seattle Children’s Hospital has deployed a 64-slice GE Discovery VCT PET/CT, one of the most advanced medical imaging systems available today, to diagnose cancerous cells in early stages of development. Children’s is the first pediatric facility to use this advanced 64-slice system and is developing pediatric-specific protocols to provide optimal diagnostic information.

The combination of this new technology and tailored pediatric imaging protocols, allows Children’s radiologists to best meet the needs of its pediatric patients by more accurately diagnosing conditions and pinpointing treatment areas, while protecting children from excessive diagnostic radiation exposure.

Combining Positron Emission Tomography (PET) with Computed Tomography (CT), the Discovery VCT PET/CT scanner takes 64 pictures of the tumor site that are combined into a comprehensive 3-D image allowing radiologists to determine the presence of disease, pinpoint specific biopsy sites and accurately monitor the effects of treatment.

“Because we are the first pediatric facility to use this technology, we’ve made it a priority to develop imaging protocols tailored to each patient’s age, weight and imaging needs to minimize radiation exposure,” said Dr. Marguerite Parisi, division head of PET CT Scan at Children’s. “We’ve been continually lowering doses on all of our imaging modalities for the past 28 years and it’s a dedication that all the radiology staff here share in order to protect children.”

The Discovery VCT PET/CT is most commonly used in oncology to diagnose lymphoma, neuroblastoma, brain tumors, sarcomas and thyroid cancer. Additionally, it can also assist in the diagnosis of myocardial viability, ischemia, coronary artery disease and in localizing epilepsy and seizure origin.

Diagnostic imaging with a PET/CT scanner requires a small amount of radiation. Studies have shown that these small amounts of radiation can slightly increase the risk of adverse health effects. At Seattle Children’s Hospital, PET/CT scans are designed to minimize diagnostic radiation while ensuring image quality. The scans are only performed when the benefit far outweighs the risk of adverse effects.

“Pediatric imaging is an art as much as a science that’s shared by only a handful of institutions,” said Victor Ghioni, pediatric CT technologist with over 30 years of pediatric imaging experience. “Typically, most children must undergo anesthesia and endure two scans - a PET and a CT scan. By combining these two scans, children are put under anesthesia for a shorter amount of time and exposed to less radiation, which is always a concern for parents and physicians.”

The PET scan is a metabolic imaging technology that detects changes in cell energy to establish whether tumors are active or inactive. The PET scan also determines if tumors have spread locally, or to outlying locations away from the primary tumor. The CT scan is then used to precisely identify the location of these cells within the child’s body.

About Seattle Children’s

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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