LECTURE NOTES IN MEDICAL ENGINEERING

How Radioactive Tracers make Diagnostic Images

An Introduction to Emission Tomography

Andreas Maier
29 min readMar 21, 2022

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These are the lecture notes for FAU’s YouTube Lecture “Medical Engineering”. This is a full transcript of the lecture video & matching slides. The course is supported by a corresponding Open Access Book, and Open Source Slides (zenodo/github). We hope, you enjoy this as much as the videos. Of course, this transcript was created with deep learning techniques largely automatically and only minor manual modifications were performed. Try it yourself! If you spot mistakes, please let us know!

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Welcome back to Medical Engineering. So today we want to talk about nuclear medicine and functional imaging and in particular, we want to see how we can use tracers to create images of the metabolism inside the body. Therefore we will have a short excursion into the basics of radiation and how radiation can also be constructed into radioactive molecules and these molecules will be used in order to create the image contrasts here. So looking forward to introducing some nuclear medicine to you guys.

Image from the Medical Engineering lecture under CC BY 4.0.

Well, let’s introduce the topic of nuclear medicine.

Image from the Medical Engineering lecture under CC BY 4.0.

There is a very interesting question that came up in the early 1900s. So here Georg de Hevesy used radioactive tracers in order to figure out whether there is metabolism in the bones or not. So the interesting thing is up to that point in time, people weren’t sure whether the bones are just like stiff parts inside of the body or whether they are also doing any kind of metabolism. So the bones are hard and dense and it wasn’t clear whether there is something useful happening inside and this could be shown with tracers. So Georg de Hevesy injected radioactive phosphorus into rats and found that it accumulated in the bones. So with this experiment, he was the first to show…

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Andreas Maier

I do research in Machine Learning. My positions include being Prof @FAU_Germany, President @DataDonors, and Board Member for Science & Technology @TimeMachineEU