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Joining Forces: PET/MRI Scans

Joining Forces: PET/MRI Scans

In the late 1800s, Ralph Waldo Emerson was credited with saying “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Even though historians now agree he didn’t use those exact words, his concept—that figuring out a better way to do something is great for business—is a guiding principle folks take to heart. Since the 1850s, the U.S. Patent Office has issued over 4,400 mousetrap patents.

Clearly, refining inventions is a time-honored tradition. In the quest for a better X-ray, researchers developed MRIs (the late 1970s), and  PET scans (1980s). Now, the next better mousetrap is a combination of those scanning technologies. A PET/MRI scan is making it easier to identify and diagnose everything from cancer to pediatric epilepsy, dementia and soft tissue injuries. It combines the MRI’s ability to perceive anatomical and functional detail with the PET scan’s metabolic and physiologic information.

The Cleveland Clinic is using this technology to more clearly visualize pediatric brain tumors and says the combined scan is a big improvement because it requires only one sedation procedure, reducing risks of anesthesia and negative emotional experiences. And researchers in Germany found that a PET/MRI is superior when it comes to pinpointing elusive foot pain. Around 24% of folks over 45 have frequent foot pain; 15% have frequent ankle pain.

Ask your doctor if a PET/MRI scan is your best diagnostic option. They’re available in major medical centers; it may be worth traveling to get the best picture of the inner you.

Medically reviewed in May 2019.

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