Some of the techniques used in cutting-edge Nuclear Physics research instrumentation for the AGATA project have the potential to significantly improve the performance of a type of nuclear medicine imaging known as Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT).
ProSPECTus is a partnership between STFC Daresbury Laboratory (Nuclear Physics, Detector Systems and Project Engineering groups), the University of Liverpool (Physics Dept, MARIARC) and Royal Liverpool hospital. The same techniques of detector segmentation and pulse shape analysis developed to allow scientists to track gamma rays in the AGATA apparatus are applied to make Compton Camera which can be used for SPECT imaging.
This novel SPECT imager is potentially a factor 30-100 more efficient than existing SPECT systems. The extra efficiency allows more detail to be seen in images more quickly or a lower dose of radiation to be given to patients. Lower radiation doses open up new possibilities such as using SPECT to screen for breast cancer in patients with dense tissue where x-ray screening often fails to spot tumours.
A further advantage of ProSPECTus is that, unlike existing SPECT cameras, it is based on semiconductor detector technology and is designed to be used in the strong magnetic fields found in MRI scanners. So doctors can use MRI to image the anatomy of the body at the same time as using SPECT imaging to examine the biochemistry.