Conventional PET scans require patients to lie on a bed for 20 to 30 minutes, but the new whole-body imaging machine can perform scans in a quarter of that time.
Instead of having to take a series of images, the scanner can capture the body’s tissues and organs from head to toe in one single scan.
It will also mean patients will be exposed to less radiation.
“We’re going to be able to reduce the radiation dose to about half of what we currently do,” said Associate Professor Paul Roach, director of nuclear medicine at Royal North Shore Hospital.
The technology will mostly benefit cancer patients to monitor their progress and guide treatments, but it can also assess people who’ve had a heart attack or those with brain disorders.
The scanner, which is called Total Body Positron Emission Tomography (TB-PET), will be acquired by Royal North Shore Hospital and the University of Sydney as part of a $15 million project to boost Australia’s imaging capabilities.
The Federal Government, through the National Imaging Facility, has funded half of project so that researchers across the country can also use it to make discoveries.
They could investigate a range of conditions such as motor neurone disease, which leads to paralysis.
“The problem there is we don’t know what causes the disease, we don’t whether it originates in the brain or in the spine or in the muscles themselves,” said Professor Steven Meikle, head of the Imaging Physics Laboratory at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre.
“So this total-body PET would allow us to study that disease and try to find out where the breakdown in the molecular signalling is occurring.”
Professor Roach said the scanner will be operational within a year.
It has been 30 years since the first PET scanner arrived in Australia and the latest announcement is set to further enhance medical diagnostics and research.