Satisfying PET-CT's IT Appetite

The PET-CT market is growing off the charts. Like a teenager's surging need for several additional meals a day and ever-rising high waters pant hem (and constant instant messaging!), PET-CT is pushing the limits of hospitals and health systems in terms of PACS, image volume and reading, network traffic, and image storage and archiving.

With image volume per study running the range of 200 MB to 600 MB, hospitals and imaging centers need to be prepared. To break it down, that can mean about 300 PET images, 300 multislice CT images and 500 or so fused PET-CT images - at .034 to .5 MB per image. Like that teenager who will be complaining if you forget to stock the refrigerator - nuclear medicine physicians, radiologists and other specialists need effective image viewing and management solutions for getting their PET-CT images now. (And getting the nuclear medicine PACS to speak with the radiology PACS is almost always problematic, and a real solution may be four years away, see In the PACS Equation: Nuclear Medicine & Image Management).

Like the latest video game for teens, modality and multimodality workstations geared for PET-CT are making their debut - easing image fusion, manipulation (MPR, MIP, etc.), reading and workflow. Image storage and archiving must be reassessed, too, and frequently re-evaluated.

These image volume behemoths are seeing a jump in sales volumes, too. In 2004, new PET-CT installs generated revenue of $496.5 million - with sales projected to reach $725.1 million in 2011, according to Frost & Sullivan. Of course large, academic facilities are aggressively installing PET-CT, but so are mid-size and community hospitals as the technology proves itself in detecting hard-to-localize cancers, and shows great benefit in disease management and therapy planning. A recent study by Richard Wahl, MD, of Johns Hopkins (examining 2,000 patients retrospectively) showed that PET-CT may help physicians identify new, unexpected malignant cancerous tumors - which often prove to be early stage cancers that, when treated promptly and aggressively, can be cured. Patients, clinicians and administrators appreciate quicker scan times, too, with higher slice-count scanners reducing scan time to 24 minutes from about an hour.

Cardiology and neurology applications of PET-CT also are beginning to grow. And the development of new radiopharmaceuticals will further fuel the growth and increase greatly the applications. That teenager is maturing nicely!