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Keeping Patients Warm Boosts Cancer Scan Accuracy

A cozy blanket may prove a great, drug-free intervention, doctors say

FRIDAY, June 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A warm blanket may not only make patients undergoing a PET or CT scan more comfortable, it may even make their results more accurate, new research suggests.

The reason: Adipose tissue, or "brown fat," can cause false-positive readings in scans aimed at detecting cancer. This fat helps warm the body, but it can also appear as a malignancy in scans.

However, researchers at Missouri's Saint Louis University School of Medicine found that keeping a warm blanket over patients until the time of the scan reduced these inaccuracies by 62 percent.

"A warm blanket is more than twice as effective, and patients don't have to worry about negative drug interactions -- or how they're going to get home after their scan," Dr. Medhat Osman, assistant professor of nuclear medicine and PET director at the university, said in a prepared statement.

Previous studies have shown that caffeine and exercise shortly before PET or CT scans may also cause inaccuracies in scans. Now, the researchers said, patients have one more thing to do to prepare for the test.

"We always call our patients 24 hours before their appointment as a reminder," said Osman. "Now, we can give them a checklist: Don't drink coffee, take it easy and try to stay warm to ensure the most accurate scan."

The researchers presented their findings this month at a meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine in San Diego.

More information

The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has more information on PET and CT scans.

SOURCES: Saint Louis University Medical Center, news release, June 20, 2006
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