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Radiologia. 2017 Sep - Oct;59(5):431-445. doi: 10.1016/j.rx.2016.10.010. Epub 2017 Jan 12.

PET/CT: underlying physics, instrumentation, and advances.

[Article in English, Spanish]

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Servicio de Medicina Nuclear-Área de Imagen Médica, Hospital Universitario y Politécnico La Fe, Valencia, España. Electronic address:


Since it was first introduced, the main goal of PET/CT has been to provide both PET and CT images with high clinical quality and to present them to radiologists and specialists in nuclear medicine as a fused, perfectly aligned image. The use of fused PET and CT images quickly became routine in clinical practice, showing the great potential of these hybrid scanners. Thanks to this success, manufacturers have gone beyond considering CT as a mere attenuation corrector for PET, concentrating instead on design high performance PET and CT scanners with more interesting features. Since the first commercial PET/CT scanner became available in 2001, both the PET component and the CT component have improved immensely. In the case of PET, faster scintillation crystals with high stopping power such as LYSO crystals have enabled more sensitive devices to be built, making it possible to reduce the number of undesired coincidence events and to use time of flight (TOF) techniques. All these advances have improved lesion detection, especially in situations with very noisy backgrounds. Iterative reconstruction methods, together with the corrections carried out during the reconstruction and the use of the point-spread function, have improved image quality. In parallel, CT instrumentation has also improved significantly, and 64- and 128-row detectors have been incorporated into the most modern PET/CT scanners. This makes it possible to obtain high quality diagnostic anatomic images in a few seconds that both enable the correction of PET attenuation and provide information for diagnosis. Furthermore, nowadays nearly all PET/CT scanners have a system that modulates the dose of radiation that the patient is exposed to in the CT study in function of the region scanned. This article reviews the underlying physics of PET and CT imaging separately, describes the changes in the instrumentation and standard protocols in a combined PET/CT system, and finally points out the most important advances in this hybrid imaging modality.


Algoritmos iterativos; Centelleadores rápidos; Computed tomography; Dose modulation; Fast scintillation crystals; Hybrid imaging; Imagen híbrida; Iterative algorithms; Modulación de dosis; Multidetector CT; PET; Positron emission tomography; TAC; TAC multidetector; Tiempo de vuelo; Time of flight

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