par Christina Hwang
, Contributing Reporter | June 15, 2016
From the June 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
SPECT is used for regular risk stratification of patients with chest pain, but there has been evidence suggesting that cardiac CT is just as valid for these patients, says Sharma, and this can be one reason why fewer nuclear scans are being conducted. “Cardiac CT is a better modality. It takes approximately 15 minutes to conduct a scan, while a nuclear medicine test would take at least four hours,” she says.
Though the number of patients sent to radiologists is decreasing, SPECT/CT sales have remained healthy, since the systems cost around $500,000, the least expensive compared to other molecular imaging systems. PET/CT is priced at approximately $1 million or more, depending on the number of slices in the CT scanner, and PET/MR is the most expensive, at over $5 million.
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Myocardial perfusion imaging, which looks at how well blood flows through heart muscles, has been affected because of reimbursement cuts from CMS. But even with this reduction, there is belief that the studies are needed and there is room for it to grow again, especially in the U.S., considering obesity and heart disease are on the rise. “Myocardial perfusion imaging will not disappear completely, but there will be more scrutiny in making sure the patients being imaged are the appropriate recipients,” says Collin Schaeffer, product marketing manager for SPECT and SPECT/CT at Siemens Healthcare.
Exciting ideas impacting PET applications
The IDEAS (Imaging Dementia-Evidence for Amyloid Scanning) study is underway to determine the clinical usefulness of diagnosing Alzheimer’s and other dementias by performing certain brain PET scans. In the scan, amyloid plaque lights up, enabling accurate detection of plaque, an insight that may prove vital in diagnosing and ultimately helping treat those with dementia.
Regis Monticeli, product marketing manager for PET/CT at Siemens Healthcare, believes this study may be a driving factor for the growth of PET/CT since it has the potential to make PET a key procedure in the diagnosis of dementia. “If the IDEAS study proves the value of PET/CT and PET imaging for patient outcomes, the reimbursement that doctors get will drive the increase in PET/CT procedures,” predicts Monticeli.
Since dementia is not usually evaluated and assessed until symptoms are present, the patient may already be in the midst of the disease, but there is hope among physicians that it can be detected before symptoms show up. “If this is the case, then we should be able to identify these ‘high-risk’ individuals, image them and then provide therapeutics that slow or halt the progress of the disease,” says Wayne Webster, founder of Proactics Consulting in Melrose, Massachusetts. Radiologists seem to agree on the value that PET/CT brings to molecular imaging, especially with the prevalence of cancer, dementia and cardiac diseases.