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Diagnostic Imaging

N.B., Nova Scotia to acquire PET scanners

The Saint John Regional Hospital, in New Brunswick, announced plans to purchase a PET scanner, as did the Capital District Health Authority, in Halifax, N.S.

PET, which stands for Positron Emission Tomography, is considered one of the best technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, along with heart disease and other serious illnesses.

Unlike Computed Tomography (CT) or MRI, which diagnose changes in the structure of organs, PET scanners detect metabolic changes in tissues that alert specialists to the presence of cancer or other abnormalities.

PET scanners allow physicians to more accurately pinpoint the source of cancer and track treatment.

The Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation will spend $3 million on the new technology, while the New Brunswick government will pay for needed renovations to install the device.

The government will also cover the cost of regular maintenance.

The George Dumont Hospital in Moncton is also planning to purchase a scanner.

Until now, New Brunswickers who’ve needed a PET exam were sent to hospitals in Quebec.

PET scanners require the use of radioactive isotopes with a short half-life. Facilities using the technology must have ready access to a cyclotron capable of producing the isotopes.

Moreover, many precautions must be taken in the design, construction and workflow of facilities handling radioactive materials. While Canada has relatively few PET scanners in comparison with other industrialized nations, some cities in Canada – such as Sherbrooke, Quebec and Edmonton, Alberta – have been early adopters and have established international reputations in the PET scanning community.

In June, Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm and Health Minister Angus MacIsaac announced the province’s $3-million investment in a $5.5-million positron emission tomography (PET) program.

“We’re pleased to stand with our partners to celebrate improved care and easier access for Nova Scotians,” said Premier Hamm. “The PET Program is important to Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada because it will lead to faster, more accurate diagnoses and it will attract more money for research. That means improved treatment options, faster treatment, and faster recovery time for patients.”

The technology will improve accuracy in diagnosis which, in turn, will result in improved surgical and radiation planning. The PET scan also incorporates a CT machine.

“PET is clearly a demonstration of what can happen when the passion of a shared vision is brought together,” said Dr. Andrew Ross, project leader for PET, and a member of the division of nuclear medicine, QEII Capital District Health Authority. “PET will allow our region to continue to produce excellence in medical research, and we will continue to attract the specialists and the funding necessary to compete with other world-class research centres.”

The diagnostic imaging doctors and Aliant each contributed $500,000 to the project. The QEII Foundation contributed $1.5 million, and the provincial government $3 million.

The scanner will be purchased this year, and should be installed and operational within two years.