Positron Emission Tomographic Imaging, commonly referred to as a PET scan, might not just be only for situations when a doctor is checking for or monitoring cancer. New research out of South Korea has come up with a new methodology for using PET scans to check for rheumatoid arthritis. The new technique utilizes an imaging agent the South Korean research team has developed that will allow doctors to see protein activity in the human body that is characteristic of arthritic joints.

An imaging agent is a contrast medium that can be injected into the human body, and provides a way for scans like PET Imaging to differentiate between different kinds of activity or cells within the body. The new technique takes advantage of the way white blood cells respond to the inflammation that occurs when arthritis is present. In fact, the new technique promises to make other kinds of arthritis more visible on a PET scan, and give doctors a powerful new diagnostic tool in monitoring and even treating the disease.

The discovery is important because many arthritis patients have to describe their symptoms to doctors, which can introduce a barrier between the medicine and the treatment. With the new scan technique, trained medical professionals would be able to actively observe the patient’s arthritic condition and proceed accordingly.

Key Points:

  • 1PET imaging is traditionally used to look for or monitor cancer presence or progression.
  • 2PET scans may also be able to detect rheumatoid arthritis (RA) allowing doctors to see active inflammation in arthritic joints..
  • 3Previous to this new scan doctors relied on blood tests and physical manipulation of joints.


Researchers from Stanford University also recently found that PET scans can be useful in detecting another form of arthritis — OA, or osteoarthritis — at an earlier phase than ever before.

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