PET-CT Curriculum

Fusion imaging, theoretically possible between many existing modalities, is rapidly becoming not just a clinical reality but a clinical standard in the form of PET-CT. As a result, it is critical for imaging technologists and radiation therapists to learn to use this more complicated equipment rapidly and effectively to ensure safe and high quality patient care. With this goal in mind, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) and the Society of Nuclear Medicine Technologist Section (SNMTS) have designed a curriculum for supplementary training that will address the needs of practicing technologists who wish to gain competency in this new modality.

PET-CT imaging combines skills held by the technologists who perform CT and PET separately. Radiographers, who perform CT, lack nuclear medicine-specific training, and nuclear medicine technologists, who perform PET, lack background in CT techniques. Radiation therapists may also use PET-CT to provide precise tumor location information for planning intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), where high doses of cancer-killing radiation are delivered directly to cancer cells, sparing the surrounding tissue. The new curriculum addresses the question of which skills each type of practicing technologist needs to add to their existing skill set in order to become competent in both PET and CT.

Hybrid PET-CT systems have been available commercially since 2000. By the end of 2002, an estimated 150 units were in operation; by 2003, 225 units; and by the end of 2004 more than 400 units will have been sold to hospital-based nuclear medicine, CT or radiation therapy departments as well as outpatient center-based radiology and oncology departments.

In contrast, there are fewer than 5,000 technologists who are certified in both radiology and nuclear medicine, and fewer than 200 technologists are certified in both nuclear medicine and CT. The need for cross-training is obvious and is expected to grow rapidly as more and more fusion scanners are deployed in clinical settings.

The PET-CT Curriculum developed jointly by the ASRT and SNMTS identifies gaps in the education of radiography, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine technologists who wish to perform PET-CT. The Gap Analysis for Basic Nuclear Medicine for Dual Modality Imaging identified the following topics that radiographers and therapists need to address to become competent providers of PET-CT services: Radiation Protection, Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals, Instrumentation and Quality Control, and Diagnostic Procedures. The Gap Analysis for Basic CT and PET for Dual Modality Imaging analysis identified the gaps that nuclear medicine technologists need to address: Patient Care, Patient Assessment, Radiation Protection, Computers, CT Computers, Image Quality in CT, CT Process, Spiral Computed Tomography, Physics/Instrumentation, CT, Applied Terminology, Cross-Sectional Anatomy (Multi-plane) with Pathologic Correlation, Procedure Protocol and Procedures.

PET-CT Curriculum

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