Cyclotrons and positron emission tomography radiopharmaceuticals for clinical imaging

Semin Nucl Med. 1992 Jul;22(3):150-61. doi: 10.1016/s0001-2998(05)80143-6.


Positron emission tomography (PET) requires positron-emitting radionuclides that emit 511-keV photons detectable by PET imagers. Positron-emitting radionuclides are commonly produced in charged particle accelerators, eg, linear accelerators or cyclotrons. The most widely available radiopharmaceuticals for PET imaging are carbon-11-, nitrogen-13-, and oxygen-15-labeled compounds, many of which, either in their normal state or incorporated in other compounds, serve as physiological tracers. Other useful PET radiopharmaceuticals include fluorine-18-, bromine-75-, gallium-68 (68Ga)-, rubidium-82 (82Rb)-, and copper-62 (62Cu)-labeled compounds. Many positron emitters have short half-lives and thus require on-site cyclotrons for application, and others (68Ga, 82Rb, and 62Cu) are available from radionuclides generators using relatively long-lived parent radionuclides. This review is divided into two sections: cyclotrons and PET radiopharmaceuticals for clinical imaging. In the cyclotron section, the principle of operation of the cyclotron, types of cyclotrons, medical cyclotrons, and production of radionuclides are discussed. In the section on PET radiopharmaceuticals, the synthesis and clinical use of PET radiopharmaceuticals are described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Particle Accelerators*
  • Radioisotopes*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Radioisotopes