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January 14, 2008 6:16 PM   Subscribe

Should I do an uneccessary PET scan for money?

There is a opportunity to do a PET scan to help out in a research project. Along with an MRI and some other psychological tests, the experiments will take about 10 hours and pay $300. This money would go straight into a travel to South America fund.

So, it is worth it for me and my girlfriend (both mid twenties) to undergo radioactive tests if they are not for medical reasons?
posted by ouchitburns to Health & Fitness (22 answers total)
You'll be fine. Wikipedia suggests the dosage is just a few times more than background exposure.

Radiation is not the bogeyman it is made out to be.
posted by saeculorum at 6:24 PM on January 14, 2008

Wikipedia suggests the dosage is just a few times more than background exposure

I would emphatically agree that this is a safe procedure and a fine idea for you to do, but the above statement is inaccurate - a scan constitutes about three times the annual background exposure amount.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:31 PM on January 14, 2008

Definitely worth it. a) Harmless tests are good to get paid for. b) Ask for a copy of the scans. You'll be glad to have baseline scans when you are older and need a real scan for a problem, and they're paying YOU to have them done. c) 30 bucks an hour is pretty good. d) conversation piece (if you ever need it "Did I ever tell you about the time I was a lab guinea pig...").

I did this myself back at university, (though I only got $75 for one PET scan).

Full speed ahead...
posted by birdsquared at 6:32 PM on January 14, 2008

If you are concerned about the radiation, I'd ask for a copy of the consent form for the study to look over in advance - it should tell you exactly how many times the annual exposure the scan will be. Or if it doesn't, the researchers should be willing and able to get that information for you. (I've put in some time on institutional review boards, and we required that information to be in the consents.) In general, ask the researchers any questions you might have about radiation or any other safety risks - it's part of their job as researchers to help you get all the information you need to make informed decisions about participating in their research.

I don't know much about PET research in particular, but if you do decide not to do it, you might look into MRI-only studies. The safety concerns are less and they also generally pay quite well.
posted by Stacey at 6:37 PM on January 14, 2008

I'd say go for it. I did one years ago when I was a broke graduate student. I could find myself with a Geiger counter for a few hours afterward, which was pretty neat, but that was about the only aftereffect. Plus I got a picture of my brain as a souvenir.
posted by Quietgal at 6:50 PM on January 14, 2008

Go for it. The boy did a bunch of PET and MRIs one summer at the VA and made a decent chunk of change. He's fine. (Better health than most people, really.)

I'm biased, though, as I love research tests and have an implant that makes it impossible to get into the well-paid ones.

The only reason I wouldn't is if I had other unusual radiation exposures, such as a bunch of CT scans, working in a lab, or so on.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:50 PM on January 14, 2008

Go for it, it's safe. I used to work in imaging research - PET is neat stuff. Make sure you ask if you can have a digital copy of your results - it's fun to look at.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:02 PM on January 14, 2008

I work in a Uranium mine, and agree with everyone else here. If you had one every day for months on end it'd be a bad idea, but once off? Go for it.
posted by twirlypen at 7:23 PM on January 14, 2008

I did PET scans as a broke student many moons ago. No harm done. If you want to balance it out, stay indoors for a day and avoid the sun. Then your radiation balance should be normal again.
posted by tim_in_oz at 7:49 PM on January 14, 2008

I had an MRI and thought it was very unpleasant. Boring, uncomfortable, loud, overly long. Certainly not worth $30 an hour. Is a PET better?
posted by smackfu at 7:57 PM on January 14, 2008

Are you being injected with anything prior to your PET or MRI? Is this for new drug investigation? Or perhaps a new isotope delivery system

Do you have any allergies - for example shellfish. Or it could be something else. There lies the crux of the question.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:30 PM on January 14, 2008

addendum: for a CAT scan many years ago - to investigate migraines - I had some sort of solution injected before the shots were taken. I was asked about shellfish allergies. for a MRI a few years ago - to investigate a hairline stress fracture in one of my shins, from too much running - some other isotope was injected prior to the MRI.

read the fine print of what you are agreeing to.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:32 PM on January 14, 2008

PRO: cash for trip. helping science.
CON: possible mutation into raging, super-strong Hulk-like beast.

Wait, the CON is actually a PRO!

Go for it. Nothing to worry about.
posted by davidmsc at 8:36 PM on January 14, 2008

I can't say whether you should or shouldn't do this - it's a personal decision - but I'm going to quibble with your use of the word 'unnecessary'. These tests are very necessary; if no one would do them, we would have great trouble learning more about the workings of the mind and the brain.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:49 PM on January 14, 2008

ikkyu2 - I think the poster means that it's medically unnecessary at the moment for him/her. Not that the tests are unnecessary in the world.
posted by barometer at 9:13 PM on January 14, 2008

Just re-iterating what everybody else has said regarding allergies (esp. shellfish and iodine) if there's to be any injections. I'm sure (or i'm really hoping, at least), that they'll cover this, but you can never be too careful.

Also, hopefully you'll also have to sign the release form that ensures that there's no chance you have any type of metal in your body - off the top of my head, for the MRIs I think i was asked about tiny metal filings that could be in my eyes, aneurysm clamps, pacemakers, and if i had an IUD. (obviously, that one would apply to your girlfriend). There was also some conflicting opinions about whether or not my belly button piercing would have to come out for the MRI (It didn't). Obviously, it'll also be a no go for your girlfriend if there's any chance she's pregnant.

Having had numerous MRIs, more types of CT scans that I can count, and a couple nuclear medicine type tests in the last year, I'm pretty sure a PET was one of those, but I can't be sure. Regardless, for me the worst part of everything (of all the tests I've had) is that lying completely still for a long time really sucks, more that you'd think it would beforehand. (Go pee beforehand - twice!) Any injected contrast can sometimes sting, depending on where it's injected and how quickly they want it to go in. And sometimes it gives you a gross metallic taste in your mouth, and the warmth going through you can make you feel like you've wet your pants.

Personally, I wouldn't do it any of it voluntarily for only $30/hour unless I was really broke, or unless they promised me no contrast would be injected. But that's just me. My experience was probably overshadowed by my 'oh my god what is wrong with me' fears (turns out nothing i need to worry about, thank god!), so as always YMMV.
posted by cgg at 9:47 PM on January 14, 2008

MRs are completely safe, as they constitute a magnetic field and non-ionizing (radio-frequency) radiation.

PET always involves a radioactive tracer, so yes, ouchitburns will be having an injection.

is this PET-CT or just PET? PET is probably relatively safe, but CTs are another thing entirely. x-rays, and lots of them.

yes, one CT is safe, but you see if you end up needing to have more of them later for a real medical necessity, your dosage is additive.

one CT is anywhere from 100-500 times the radiation exposure from a chest x-ray, which is the equivalent of 1 to 3 years of natural exposure to radiation.

not something that i personally would do electively.

yes, the images are cool, and if you have the data, you can make 3d reconstructions with a program called "OsiriX" (runs on macosX).
posted by joeblough at 10:00 PM on January 14, 2008

Dude, do it for science (and $300 is good money, although by hour 5 or 6 you'll be regretting it).

There are no reasonable oppositions to doing this, physical health wise.

I'd ask to see their protocol; do you spend the entire 10 hours in the PET machine (some setups can be noisy and uncomfortable, others are much more congenial) or do you climb into the machine ever half-hour? If it's a 10 hour ride - ask youself(ves) if you can do it.

10 hours doesn't sound like much until you're in the middle of it.

I can't imagine (well, I can, but it [should] never pass the ethics committee) a protocol where you'd be strapped in for the whole 10 hours (cost). See if you're allowed to read a book or use a personal electronic device (PDA/game system) between PET sessoions.

What are the nature of the psychological tests? On the face of it, it sounds suspiciously of a test of the efficacy of various torture mechanisms. I'm kinda surprised that there aren't news of "extreme interrogation tactics" using brain imaging equipment (or brain altering equipment like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Reminds me to remind a new PI on campus that I wanted to volunteer as a control under her TMS.)
posted by porpoise at 10:42 PM on January 14, 2008

The shellfish thing is a medical old wives tale. Shellfish allergy is not a risk factor for a contrast reaction. Here's a reasonably good explanation:
"Organic iodide as found in shellfish is an essential element, so individuals cannot be allergic to it."
posted by roofus at 1:59 AM on January 15, 2008

my point is that the test might not be the PET scan itself, but the injectable that is used for obtaining the resulting imagery. $300 is a lot of money per volunteer, likely not going to be an easy test.

regarding PDAs - nothing metallic is allowed near MRI machines (M is for magnetic)
posted by seawallrunner at 8:27 AM on January 15, 2008

The shellfish thing is a medical old wives tale. Shellfish allergy is not a risk factor for a contrast reaction. Here's a reasonably good explanation:
"Organic iodide as found in shellfish is an essential element, so individuals cannot be allergic to it."

This may be one of the many occasions when 'old wives' are worth listening to, roofus; people with Hashimoto's thyroiditis often experience flare-ups from sources of iodine, shellfish are a source of iodine and some contrast agents are iodinated, and therefore a reaction to shellfish could be a symptom of underlying Hashimoto's, which could in turn be a predisposing factor for reaction to contrast media. If I had a reaction to shellfish, I would certainly want to be screened for thyroiditis before consenting to the use of an iodinated contrast agent, especially since the incidence of Hashimoto's is "approximately 0.3-5 cases per 1000 individuals per year" and

Patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis are particularly susceptible to developing overt biochemical and clinical hypothyroidism following the administration of iodine (either in the form of radiocontrast dyes such as those used in computerized tomography scans or after the administration of exogenous iodine or lithium).
posted by jamjam at 9:17 AM on January 15, 2008

I just got back from driving my mum to NIH this morning, where she was a lab guinea pig (they stuck a tube through her nose and down into her lungs and sucked out some cells to be "healthy samples"). If you can cope with the procedures (staying still, not claustrophobic, not afraid of needles) you should definitely go for it, mum said one of the best things was knowing what the different procedures and drugs were like on a voluntary non-emergency basis, so if she's ever faced with any of those things later in life she'll know exactly what she's in for. Personally I can't cope with the needles, I only saw the trail end of them pulling the IV out of mum's arm and I almost fainted--I had a bunch of nurses clustered around me and they insisted on giving me juice and stuff before they'd let me take her home. Funny in hindsight, but for a minute I really thought I was going to hurl on the floor.
posted by anaelith at 11:53 AM on January 15, 2008

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