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By Larry Adams
Imaging in medicine has come a long way since the first positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, but it is just the beginning. The technology is being used in new and diverse ways -- some of which are not even in the medical realm -- and additional innovation will be needed in the coming years.
Dr. Michael Phelps, a developer of some of the first PET scanners, says that molecular imaging is at the forefront of medicine's future and that technology will need to address that need. "The biological and medical world is going molecular," says Phelps, who spoke in November at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. "Disease is a biological process. It is critical that medical imaging provide a molecular diagnosis of the biology of diseases."
In 1973, Phelps and Edward Hoffman, Ph.D., invented the PET scanner that allowed non-invasive measurement of the biochemistry and biology of the normal organ function and to enable molecular diagnosis of disease. Approximately one million PET procedures are performed in the United States and it is expected that that number will grow by some 20 to 30 percent over the next four years.
"What will medical imaging be like in five to 10 years?" asks Phelps. "I don't know, but it will be very different because medicine is going to be very different."
MORE TECHNOLOGY NEEDED
With the growing use of PET scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and optical imaging, manufacturers will continue to need new advances in the imaging equipment to solve and improve the image quality and analysis.