Can A Pet Scan of the Brain Detect Depression?

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A pet scan is known as positron emission tomography. It is an imaging test that doctors use in order to detect certain diseases in your body. The scan contains special radioactive dyes, which are swallowed, inhaled or injected, depending on the disease that is to be examined. PET scans have some benefit as well as disadvantages.

Since depression and other mental illnesses originate in the brain, PET scans can be used to detect depression via the brain activity so as to observe the necessary changes.

What is a pet scan?

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A positron emission tomography (pet) scan is an imaging test that allows your doctor to check for diseases in your body. The scan uses a special dye containing radioactive tracers. These tracers are swallowed, inhaled, or injected into a vein in your arm depending on what part of the body is being examined. Certain organs and tissues then absorb the tracer. When detected by a pet scanner, the tracers help your doctor to see how well your organs and tissues are working.

The tracer will collect in areas of higher chemical activity, which is helpful because certain tissues of the body, and certain diseases, have a higher level of chemical activity. These areas of disease will show up as bright spots on the pet scan. The pet scan can measure blood flow, oxygen use, how your body uses sugar, and much more. A pet scan is typically an outpatient procedure. This means you can go about your day after the test is finished.

Advantages of pet scan

  • Since it can study bodily functions through biochemical processes, the scans are able to detect diseases before the symptoms and signs show hence they are more effective compared to the other imaging tests.
  • Since it studies metabolic functions of a patient, pet imaging can be used as an alternative to biopsy and also other exploratory surgeries conducted to determine how far a disease has spread.
  • Its ability to differentiate between non-cancerous and cancerous tumors, pet scans are the most precise medical tools to help minimize the number of unnecessary surgeries done because of wrong staging data and diagnosis.
  • Pet scans are effective for diagnosing early stages of certain neurological illnesses such as alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and other mental illnesses.
  • Pet scans are the best options for those people scared of getting infection from medical procedures.
  • As compared to other forms of ct scans, pet scans are a bit safer as the radiation dosage one is exposed to is relatively low.

Disadvantages of pet scan

Regardless of its numerous advantages, pet scans also have its disadvantages.

  • Even though the radioactive elements used in these scans are short lived it might cause some complications especially to pregnant patients.
  • Even though the radioactive components used in the scans are not long lasting it is still exposure to radioactive rays which is not good and which also means there is only a number of times one can undergo pet imaging.
  • Since it is a new procedure, it is quite expensive compared to other forms of medical imaging. They also require a cyclotron which is an expensive machine used to create radioisotopes that are used to produce the radioactive rays required for imaging and thus is a very expensive treatment to come by.
  • Also another problem with pet imaging is that the sensitivity of this diagnostic tool is too high. In case a patient was suffering from chemical imbalance for instance those who are diabetic or just ate something before undergoing the procedure, the likelihood of pet imaging false results is high.

Can a pet scan of the brain detect depression?

It’s widely recognized that psychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety disorders are based in the brain. Scientists have even started to discover which brain areas are involved in different conditions. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seems to involve excessive activity in the amygdale, which is involved in processing fear, as well as low activity in certain parts of the frontal lobes. Much of the evidence for the role of specific brain areas in psychiatry comes from “brain imaging,” which involves various ways of looking at the brain. Some technologies like PET imaging and functional MRI can measure the activity of the brain either at rest or while a person does certain tasks. Other technologies, like traditional MRI, measure the brain’s structure—its size and shape.

So, a conclusive argument might be reached upon this topic. PET scan of the brain might help in establishing the neurosis of the brain. It can detect the unusual patterns and detect the chemical imbalance in the brain. It can also detect the functions of the neuro-transmitters of the brain. However, whether that causes depression or any other mental disorder would require certain tests and a lot more of diagnosis. Also, it should be noted that a PET scan should only be done when a doctor recommends it; it should not be done otherwise.

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