A Diagnostic Monster's Cost May Soon Be Cut By Half

In medical circles, the technology of the moment for studying body functions is positron-emission tomography (PET). A$6 million tomograph measures gamma rays given off when radioactive sugars are absorbed by tissue. Used on heart patients, for instance, such pictures give doctors a better idea than other means whether bypass surgery is needed. But the machines are so expensive that few hospitals have them. The high cost is due partly to a 22-ton cyclotron in the PET that makes the radioactive sugars by ripping positively charged particles, called positrons, off oxygen or nitrogen atoms. The radioactive compounds then are injected or inhaled.

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