PET/MRI's Role in Reducing Radiation

PET/MRI is a first-of-its-kind imaging technology approved by the FDA in November 2014.  This combined technology is used for the diagnosis, staging and treatment of a variety of conditions, including cancer, neurological, oncological and musculoskeletal diseases. PET/MRI provides high-quality images while reducing patient exposure to radiation. Thomas Hope, MD, assistant professor in residence at UCSF’s Department of Abdominal Imaging and Nuclear Medicine, has been instrumental in both leading high-level research that demonstrated the effectiveness of this technique, and then moving this new technology from bench to bedside (from research labs to the patient-care environment.) Here, he addressed a key benefit of this new technology -- reducing radiation exposure.

“The PET/MRI has the best PET detectors in modern imaging. That means we are able to use a lower dose of injected radiotracers. Time of Flight (ToF) detectors, the first such equipped PET/MRI available in the United States, provide improved images with lower doses of radiation because of the heightened image sensitivity.”

Additionally, he explained, “With PET/MRI, there is no CT component, so there’s no radiation. Instead of using radiation to make an image, the MRI uses varying magnetic fields.”

“Reducing radiation is important to all patients, but especially pediatric patients because they are more likely to develop secondary cancers throughout their lives,” said Dr. Hope. The same concern is true among patients requiring repeat imaging because of the long-term nature of their condition, such as lymphoma. “Because we don’t fully understand the risk of radiation, it’s important to minimize it as much as possible.”


Thomas Hope, MD, is an assistant professor in residence in the Abdominal Imaging and Nuclear Medicine sections at UCSF and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. In 2007, he received his medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine and he completed a one-year internship at Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco. From 2008-2012, Dr. Hope completed a residency in Diagnostic Radiology at the University of California, San Francisco, followed by a clinical fellowship in Body MRI and Nuclear Medicine from Stanford Medical Center in 2013.


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