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Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Imaging

Positron-emission tomography (PET) is a special form of medical imaging which enables doctors to visualize specific function inside the body in 3D. This is done with the use of a radiopharmaceutical, which is a special molecule combined with very small amount of radioactivity, and a special scanner. The images obtained can provide physicians with information to help them to diagnose, monitor and treat disease.

The radiopharmaceutical is injected into the patient’s bloodstream, and the patient is imaged on a special camera called a PET/CT scanner. This scanner uses two imaging techniques to get information on body structure and function in one test.

The results of these scans are processed by software to give doctors both functional and structural information in one set of images.

The most frequently used PET imaging radiotracer is fluorodeoxyglucose (18F) (FDG), a compound made from a simple sugar and a small amount of radioactive fluorine (18F). This radiotracer accumulates in the body’s tissues and organs where there are increased levels of activity, such as in tumors.

FDG is used in cancer imaging to search for tumors, metastases or to monitor response to certain therapies. However, it does not work well in some anatomical areas such as the prostate and the brain.

To overcome this challenge, Blue Earth Diagnostics developed fluciclovine (18F), a compound that is formed from a synthetic amino acid and includes a small amount of the radioisotope fluorine (18F).

Fluciclovine (18F) accumulates in the body’s tissues and organs where there is an increased uptake of amino acids, as can occur in certain tumors. A PET/CT scanner is used to detect the distribution of the fluciclovine (18F). The images obtained from the fluciclovine (18F) PET scan give doctors information which can assist in the management of the patient.

Fluciclovine (18F) is approved in the USA and Europe for PET imaging of biochemically recurrent prostate cancer.


The PET imaging agent is manufactured in a specialist radiopharmacy which is located close to the hospital or imaging centre.


The PET imaging agent, which contains a small amount of radioactive material, is injected into the patient.


The patient is scanned using a PET/CT scanner which detects any radioactivity or PET “hotspots”. A PET/CT scan normally takes 15-30 minutes.


The radiologist interprets the scan.