Blood sampling in PET studies

What for?

Quantification of PET image data requires measurement of input function. Input function (delivery function) describes the concentration of the unchanged (non-metabolized) tracer in arterial plasma (or blood, depending on the tracer) as a function of time.

For some tracers and target organs blood sampling is not required, when time-activity curve of reference tissue curve can be measured from the PET image and used as as input function.

Blood radioactivity concentration can be measured from the PET image, if a large artery or LV heart cavity is visible in the image. Even then some blood samples may be needed for


Manual blood sampling

Before the PET study a short catheter has been inserted into artery of the arm, or into antecubital vein of the arm, if hand is heated to gather “arterialized” venous blood. Arterial catheterization is safe and reliable, but burdensome. Arterialized venous blood sampling can be used in certain, mostly diagnostic, studies when absolute quantification is not necessary; heating the hand leads to vascular dilatation, which increases blood flow but not metabolism, resulting in venous blood becoming almost identical to arterial blood.

Catheter is connected to saline drip via three-way cock. After tracer inhalation or injection via another vein and catheter, blood samples are collected by a syringe. A 2 mL waste sample (containing mainly saline) is taken before collecting the actual blood sample. Blood is transferred from syringe to a heparinized tube, avoiding hemolysis. Heparin and blood is mixed by turning the tube upside-down. Tube is then immediately placed on ice to slow down further metabolism and transport from plasma to blood cells. The exact time of blood sampling is recorded.

Blood sample tubes are centrifuged (at +4 °C) to separate plasma. A certain volume of plasma is then moved to another tube, and its radioactivity is measured using gamma counter. If also concentration in total blood needs to be measured, then the rest of the sample tube is also measured using gamma counter, and the tube is weighed. Concentration in blood can then be calculated from the sum of sample radioactivities and sum of weights, taking into account the physical decay between the measurements. Finally, all radioactivity concentrations are calibrated to kBq/mL and decay corrected to the tracer injection time.

Separate blood samples are collected for metabolite analysis. These tubes may contain inhibitor, preventing further metabolism of the tracer in vitro. Blood tube must still be immediately placed on ice to further slow down the metabolism and transport from plasma to blood cells. Plasma is separated by centrifugation at +4 °C. Plasma proteins are precipitated, usually by acetonitrile followed by centrifugation. Protein free plasma supernatant is then analyzed by chromatographic methods.

The total radioactivity of blood, plasma and urine samples is obtained by two automated gamma counters (1480 Wizard 3”, Wallac, Turku).

Automatic blood sampling system (ABSS)

Arterial whole blood radioactivity concentration can be measured with an automatic blood sampling system (“blood pump” with on-line detector) to record the curve precisely after radiotracer bolus infusion. In long PET studies ABSS is used only during the first 3-5 minutes p.i. and manual blood sampling is continued after that.

ABSS provides more precise results than manual blood sampling when the dynamics of the tracer in the blood is very fast, especially in oxygen-15 studies. However, longer tubing is needed in ABSS than with manual sampling, which may lead to higher dispersion error. ABSS measures only activity concentration in whole blood, and conversion to concentration in plasma may be error prone with some tracers. Arterial catheterization is required with ABSS.

Separate blood samples for metabolite analysis and measurement of plasma-to-blood ratio can be collected while the ABSS is still working. These samples can be taken from the end of the ABSS tubing, so that it does not any disturbance in the on-line data.

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Created at: 2006-05-23
Updated at: 2017-09-26
Written by: Vesa Oikonen, Pauliina Virsu, Tuula Tolvanen, Anne Roivainen