The Story of PET/CT

Prior to PET/CT, doctors were often frustrated when trying to match PET images with CT images to determine the precise location of a tumor within the body. They had little choice other than to “eyeball” the two separate images and make an educated guess as to the tumor’s exact location – until 1992, when engineer Ron Nutt and physicist David Townsend came up with the idea of combining a PET and CT into one machine.

After working on their combined PET and CT concept for three years, Nutt and Townsend received a grant from the National Cancer Institute. This enabled the completion of a prototype machine, which was installed at the University of Pittsburgh medical center in 1998.

The pair designed the machine to be more patient friendly and to give a more complete picture of what is occurring in the body both anatomically and metabolically – at the same time.

Time Magazine honored PET/CT as the “Medical Science Invention of the Year” in 2000, noting that the PET/CT scanner has “provided medicine with a powerful new diagnostic tool.”1

1 Jaroff, L. Time Magazine (2000, December 4).