NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 13, 2004

A combination of two body-imaging techniques can more accurately show how far a patient's cancer has spread than full-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, say researchers in a new study.

The study compared full-body dual-modality positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET/CT) scan technology with full-body MRI in 98 patients. Eighty-two percent of the patients were referred for primary tumor staging, the rest were referred for suspected tumor recurrence. The researchers found:

  • PET/CT correctly characterized tumor stage in 80 percent of the patients.
  • MRI was found to be accurate in only 52 percent of the patients.
  • In addition, interpretation of images produced by MRI generally took longer than those produced by PET/CT.

Although the PET/CT scan was more effective than an MRI, there is little difference in the total cost of the two imaging procedures. Currently, in a hospital setting, approximately $1,900 is charged for a whole-body PET/CT and $1,850 for a whole-body MRI.

Source: Gerald Antoch et al., "Whole-Body Dual-Modality PET/CT and Whole-Body MRI for Tumor Staging in Oncology," Journal of the American Medical Association, December 24/31, 2003; and Lennart Blomqvist and Michael Torkzad, "Whole-Body Imaging With MRI or PET/CT: The Future for Single-Modality Imaging in Oncology?" Journal of the American Medical Association, December 24/31, 2003.

For free JAMA text


Browse more articles on Health Issues