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What You Need to Know About the Incredible PET MRI

Dr. Andre Khoury-Yacoub, Radiology

August 16, 2021

What You Need to Know About the Incredible PET MRI

With more than 40 million MRIs performed annually in the US every year, chances are you’ve heard of or even personally experienced the power of magnetic resonance imaging. Perhaps you had a scan for the knee you twisted playing tennis or even of your brain to get to the bottom of those persistent headaches. MRIs provide incredibly high-resolution multiplanar and 3D images of the body to help physicians diagnose specific abnormalities of tissues and organs.

Not so common, but also vital, are PET scans. Positron emission tomography uses a special dye containing radioactive tracers during the scanning process to allow your physician to diagnose and monitor the progression of a disease, like cancer and Alzheimer’s as well as other neurologic, infectious and inflammatory diseases.

What’s even more rare? Combining the MRI at PET technologies into one scan for the most detailed and accurate look at the body available. PET MRI is a new and rapidly developing technology that is on its way of becoming the gold standard for detecting and monitoring a range of diseases from their earliest stages.

What Makes This Scan So Special?

This multi-function device is a milestone in cutting-edge medical imaging. MRI combines extremely clear high-resolution images with metabolic and molecular changes from the PET, which show up as bright red spots. This combination is extremely useful at pinpointing specific locations of diseases like cancer, how much it may have spread and determining the correct stage for treatment planning.

In fact, there are only 115 PET MRIs available worldwide, including the one at White Plains Hospital – the first and only healthcare facility in the Hudson Valley and Fairfield County to have this new technology. Except for New York City, it is the only hospital in all of New York state to offer this most advanced technology.

What Conditions Might Require a PET/MRI?

Here are a few of the most common uses:

Cancer. PET MRI is a critical tool in the detection and monitoring of many adult cancers, including prostate, neuroendocrine, pancreatic tumors, brain, head and neck and pelvic cancers. A recent study in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine found that the PET MRI improved lesion detection in selected cancers by more than 15% and reduced ionizing radiation by more than 50% when compared with PET CT.

Neurological disorders. These include evaluation for dementia (Alzheimer’s) and epilepsy. Soon new applications will be added such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and movement disorders.

In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), PET can detect the amyloid plaques early in the disease so doctors can intervene as early as possible to stop the progression especially with the advent of new medications. In intractable seizures it can detect the places in the brain where the seizures originated (epileptogenic foci).

Pediatric oncology: Imaging can be a scary experience for children, so the more these experiences can be kept to a minimum the better. A single, combined test is especially beneficial to children who need both a PET scan and an MRI – leading to significantly less radiation exposure and reducing the need for multiple sedations.

There is more. Soon, PET MRI will be available for inflammatory bowel disease, cardiac inflammation and breast cancer.

In summary, the major benefits of PET MRI scans:

  • More accurate diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Improved safety by significantly reducing radiation exposure.
  • Convenience of two scans in one.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 914-681-1260.

Dr. Andre Khoury-Yacoub

Dr. Andre Khoury-Yacoub is the Co-Director of Radiology at White Plains Hospital.


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