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Taking the mystery out of PET/MRI scans

PET/MRI scans could become more pleasant for patients, thanks to two films from UCLH's nuclear medicine department.

The short videos clearly and simply explain what to expect when having a scan. The films, which have English subtitles for the hard of hearing and have been translated into 10 languages, aim to demystify the scanning process, making it more pleasant and less stressful for patients.

Available in Arabic, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Swedish, they were produced with the help of former patients. One described the final cut as “clear and informative”. Another said: “They relay information in a non-frightening way but don’t fudge the bits that may cause some people concern, such as noise, injections and radioactivity.”

PET/MRI combines Positron emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – two of the most powerful imaging tools. It is still a relatively new technology and, in 2012, UCLH was the first place in the UK to install one of the machines.

However, research done by the nuclear medicine team shows that patients are less comfortable in the scanner and more anxious than those having PET/CT scans. Such concerns don’t just affect the patient’s satisfaction; they also increase the odds of them moving during the scan, leading to a poorer quality image being produced.With potential reasons including lack of familiarity with the procedure and the narrowness and noise of the PET/MRI scanner, the team decided to make a film that tells patients exactly what to expect.

The second film details what happens during a PET/CT scan.The project was led by research nurse Rob Shortman and funded by the cancer theme of our Biomedical Research Centre and UCLH Charity. Rob, who is also part-funded by the BRC, said: “It’s natural for a patient to feel anxious at the thought of a scan and it is important we do everything we can to put their mind at ease. We hope that these short films, developed with the help of former patients, will make the process seem less alien. By making them available in a variety of languages, we hope they will help as many people as possible, not just in London but around the UK.”

An article about the development of the films is published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology.

Patients can watch the videos on UCLH’s nuclear medicine webpages.