The positron emission tomography in combination with CT in hybrid, cross-modality imaging systems (PET/CT) gains more and more importance as a part of the treatment-planning procedure in radiotherapy. Positron emission tomography (PET), as a integral part of nuclear medicine imaging and non-invasive imaging technique, offers the visualization and quantification of pre-selected tracer metabolism. In combination with the structural information from CT, this molecular imaging technique has great potential to support and improve the outcome of the treatment-planning procedure prior to radiotherapy. By the choice of the PET-Tracer, a variety of different metabolic processes can be visualized. First and foremost, this is the glucose metabolism of a tissue as well as for instance hypoxia or cell proliferation. This paper comprises the system characteristics of hybrid PET/CT systems. Acquisition and processing protocols are described in general and modifications to cope with the special needs in radiooncology. This starts with the different position of the patient on a special table top, continues with the use of the same fixation material as used for positioning of the patient in radiooncology while simulation and irradiation and leads to special processing protocols that include the delineation of the volumes that are subject to treatment planning and irradiation (PTV, GTV, CTV, etc.). General CT acquisition and processing parameters as well as the use of contrast enhancement of the CT are described. The possible risks and pitfalls the investigator could face during the hybrid-imaging procedure are explained and listed. The interdisciplinary use of different imaging modalities implies a increase of the volume of data created. These data need to be stored and communicated fast, safe and correct. Therefore, the DICOM-Standard provides objects and classes for this purpose (DICOM RT). Furthermore, the standard DICOM objects and classes for nuclear medicine (NM, PT) and computed tomography (CT) are used to communicate the actual image data created by the modalities. Care must be taken for data security, especially when transferring data across the (network-) borders of different hospitals. Overall, the most important precondition for successful integration of functional imaging in RT treatment planning is the goal orientated as well as close and thorough communication between nuclear medicine and radiotherapy departments on all levels of interaction (personnel, imaging protocols, GTV delineation, and selection of the data transfer method).
Copyright 2010 European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and European Association of Nuclear Medicine. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.. All rights reserved.