Whole-brain PET combined with MRI using silicon photomultipliers

SensL has announced the completion of the world's first full-brain positron emission tomography (PET) scanner which can be used within a PET/MRI system, developed in conjunction with the Samsung Medical Center-Sungkyunkwan University (SMC-SKKU) in Seoul, South Korea.

A PET/MRI is body imaging tool that combines PET and MRI in a single scan. The technique gives a full three-dimensional view of an organ in the body, including the location of any disease within that organ. This integration allows the physician to better understand, help diagnose and treat problems such as cancer, neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease.

The use of SensL's silicon photomultiplier detectors in the PET/MRI system has revolutionised medical imaging, as they are capable of operating in the high magnetic field of MRI with no loss in PET performance. The standard vacuum tube-based detectors are very sensitive to magnetic fields, which has made the combination of PET and MRI impossible until now. The PET segment of this new system consists of an array of detectors in the form of a ring that will surround the head of a patient. This collaboration represents the first time that PET and MRI have been combined with a full ring of silicon photomultiplier detectors.

SMC-SKKU chose the SensL detectors over the industry standard vacuum tube-based photomultiplier tube not only for their magnetic field immunity, but also for their high drive capabilities. This enabled the separation of the detector from the readout electronics by nine feet of industry standard cable, allowing the positioning of the output electronics away from the high magnetic field of the MRI system. SensL produces both the detectors (consisting of 1,152 individual channels) and the readout electronics and bias supply for the system.

Professor Yong Choi of SMC-SKKU said: ’This was a unique opportunity to bring the solid-state silicon photomultiplier array into a PET/MRI system. The performance advantages of the silicon photomultipliers are clear and we are pleased to be leading in the development of MRI-compatible PET based on this technology’. Professor Choi continued: ‘We have a lot of work left to do to integrating it into the MRI system and look forward to presenting these results to the community in the near future.’

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