New imaging technology may help advance whole person health

Total-body positron emission tomography (PET) provides a holistic view of all the body’s organs, that may lead to a better understanding of health issues and improve treatments, according to a note by Helen Langevin, MD, director of the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

Following the recent conference on total-body PET in Edinburgh, Scotland, Langevin said researchers at the NCCIH gained insights into how total-body PET can be applied in the study of whole person health.

While previous innovations in medical imaging have allowed researchers to closely examine the body’s essential functions, helping to diagnose and treat conditions, it was largely restricted to certain parts of the body. Total-body PET removes the barriers involved with other imaging technologies and gives practitioners a look at what’s happening throughout the body’s insides, according to Langevin.

Total-body PET, which combines computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, can help researchers determine the relationship between the body’s structures and biochemistry. For instance, new investigation funded by the NIH and led by Abhijit Chaudhari, PhD, of University of California, Davis seeks to use total-body PET to better examine a patient’s myofascial pain. According to Langevin, total-body PET may help researchers better understand a patient’s myofascial pain as well as their response to treatments.  

Langevin concluded that advances in technology such as total-body PET allow researchers to visualize their existing findings inside the body and further the study of whole person health, a top priority for the NICCIH.