In a significant breakthrough, the department of nuclear medicine at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here has developed a new technique in which the PET-CT scan will help create fast and clear images of infected parts of the body.
The technique has been developed in collaboration with the institute's departments of gastroenterology, microbiology and radio-diagnosis.
A PGIMER press release said that under this procedure, some samples of a patient's white blood cells are taken, labeled with a radioactive material and re-injected. As a natural defence response of the body, these radio-labeled cells accumulate at the site of active infection and appear as bright collections on the image of the body created by PET-CT scanning. A basic CT scan is also performed simultaneously on the same machine, to provide precise structural details of the affected organ.
In the first such study in the world, this technique has been developed by Dr Anish Bhattacharya, additional professor at the PGIMER's department of nuclear medicine, and has so far been used to detect abdominal infection in more than 120 patients, the PGIMER said.
The PGIMER said the study has been published in international journals and selected for innovative medical research awards at international conferences in Europe and US. The technique has also proven useful for accurately detecting orthoapedic and intestinal infections. In patients with suspected infection in multiple regions of the body, the specific infected site can be located by whole body PET imaging, avoiding repeated invasive procedures.
The radioactive material (Fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose, or FDG) for this test is produced in the PET center of the PGIMER's nuclear medicine department, and the test report is available the same day.
In comparison, earlier methods required imported kits costing Rs. 6,000 per patient, and required multiple imaging steps over two days. The image quality with the new technique is also far superior and easier to interpret.
The PGIMER found no adverse effects having occurred in any patient with this technique in the nearly 200 patients investigated over the last three years of its limited use. However, this investigation, which is not available anywhere else in the country, requires trained staff, specialised equipment and sterile working conditions during the five-hour procedure.
Infection is one of the commonest problems in medical practice, and may affect any organ in the body.
While common diagnostic techniques like x-rays, ultrasound and CT scans play an important role, a final diagnosis is usually made by needle biopsy from the suspected region and microscopic identification and laboratory culture of the infecting organisms. However, these procedures are invasive, and it may sometimes be difficult to reach the suspected site of infection, as in infections affecting internal organs like the heart, skull base and intestines.