PET/CT is one of the fastest-growing modalities in the medical-imaging field today. A spectacular technology that pairs biological function (PET) with anatomical structure (CT), PET/CT is helping oncologists stage cancer and assess treatment, and it’s enabling physicians to see the early onset of many diseases of the central nervous system, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The modality has had an enthusiastic reception and now has been adopted by many freestanding imaging centers and physician’s offices, some with little or no previous experience with nuclear medicine and, in particular, radioisotopes. However, with the technology’s wider installation base comes the need to pay closer attention to radiation safety.

Not only are technologists exposed to higher levels of radiation with PET/CT, but also the exposure is not as cut and dry as it is with CT alone, as Leroy H. Stecker III, MBA, RT(N), CNMT, describes in his article, “On the Job: 10 PET/CT Radiation Safety Strategies“. With CT, the x-ray tube is the threat; with PET, the patient poses the greatest threat.

Stecker provides 10 tips for reducing risk to radiation exposure—information that anyone who works with this thriving modality should read and keep close at hand. In fact, this topic has spurred countless workshops and classes across the country, helping to inform and train practitioners about the regulations that keep them and patients safe.

I spoke with Kelly Austin, MS, one of the instructors at the Radiation Safety Academy (Gaithersburg, Md), which is offering a 4-day workshop on Medical Radiation Safety this September 19?22. Geared toward technologists, the course covers everything from radiation fundamentals, shielding options, and health effects to instrument applications and troubleshooting, inspections and audits, and regulations from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC of Washington, DC). “Day one starts by assuming that attendees know nothing,” Austin explained, noting that all four of the course’s lead instructors have worked with the National Institutes of Health’s radiation-safety program.

Although the course—registration and more information for which is available online at—takes place in the Academy’s Maryland office, it focuses on NRC regulations only, not state-specific mandates. Austin did note that attendees can bring their facilities’ licenses for review, however. She also said that the course will be offered quarterly and could possibly “go on the road” and be offered in a variety of cities—”if there’s enough interest,” she said.

Courses like this one at the Radiation Safety Academy are available all across the country, and I strongly urge every PET/CT practitioner to find one in his or her area and participate. As Stecker notes in his article, the primary latent disease that is associated with radiation exposure is cancer. It certainly is ironic that those working with PET/CT—the main use of which is imaging and treating cancer—are exposing themselves to the very disease that they are trying to treat. With a close eye on safety, though, the risk can be minimized dramatically.

Andi Lucas, editor