The cost of positron emission tomography in six United States Veterans Affairs hospitals and two academic medical centers

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2003 Aug;181(2):359-65. doi: 10.2214/ajr.181.2.1810359.


Objective: Positron emission tomography (PET) is a high-cost imaging tool primarily used in oncology, cardiology, and neuropsychiatry. Accurate estimates of the cost of PET are needed to assess its cost effectiveness and determine the appropriate role for this modality in clinical applications. We performed a survey-based cost analysis of PET with FDG by estimating direct, indirect, and capital costs from eight PET centers. A breakdown of the operational budget of PET centers and FDG-compounding facilities is presented along with the costs per scan. Differences in costs between sites that purchase FDG and those that manufacture FDG are also examined.

Materials and methods: We sent surveys to managers of eight Veterans Affairs and two non-Veterans Affairs PET scanning and FDG-compounding facilities. The survey included questions about service volume and the direct costs of equipment, personnel, space, supplies, and repairs needed for FDG compounding and PET scanning and interpretation. We estimated the indirect costs associated with FDG compounding, PET scanning, and PET interpretation.

Results: Of the eight sites that responded to our survey, three sites manufacture FDG on-site, three sites purchase FDG, and two sites do both. The total mean cost per scan using manufactured FDG is 1885 US dollars, and it is 1898 US dollars using purchased FDG.

Conclusion: PET is expensive. The cost is similar when FDG is manufactured or purchased. Because both PET and cyclotron facilities have high fixed costs, increasing the number of scans obtained and the number of FDG doses manufactured may lead to a decrease in unit costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / economics*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Data Collection
  • Direct Service Costs
  • Drug Compounding / economics
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / economics
  • Hospital Costs*
  • Hospitals, Veterans / economics*
  • Humans
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / economics
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / economics*
  • United States


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18