PET machine breakdown hits AIIMS patients
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The backlog of patients for tests in the positron emission tomography (PET) scan machine of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) increased substantially after the facility was down for repairs for two weeks recently.
AIIMS has only one PET scan machine, catering to thousands of patients. Though it was repaired on Tuesday, patients were given dates for next year for their tests.
PET scan is a high-end nuclear imaging technology that gives a 3D image of internal organs, detecting anomalies faster and more accurately than common CT scans that can detect only structural problems.
The scan has a range of uses primarily for cancer patients and those suffering from heart and neurological ailments. Sources in the AIIMS nuclear medicine department said there was a technical fault in the machine's ability to break down the radio isotope, which is injected into a patient before the scan.
"Radio isotopes are high-energy molecules that break down in the body and release positrons, which are picked up by the machine. They help us track how the body processes biological molecules and identify problems in the metabolic system. If the isotope-breakdown process is affected, we cannot carry out scans," a faculty member said.
Till Monday, patients were being given dates for the first week of January. An oncology patient, who had a date for Monday, with a written request from the doctor for an "urgent report", was given a date for January 4.
Roshan Chandna, the patient's grandfather, said: "Our radiation therapy was supposed to start from Thursday, but we do not have confirmed dates for this week for the PET scan. Unless the scan is done, we cannot start with her treatment."
Clinicians usually prefer successive scans from the same machine to get an accurate picture of the progression of the disease and impact of therapy. The machine had started working. But doctors said it could take weeks to clear the backlog from Tuesday afternoon.
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