Diagnostic Scans Overview
Things to know about PET
What is PET?
PET is an acronym for Positron Emission Tomography. A PET scan uses radiation, or nuclear medicine imaging, to produce 3-D color images of the functional processes within the body. A Computed Tomography (CT) scan shows the structure. The PET/CT imaging technique merges these two scans, providing detailed information about the presence or spread of disease, and accurately identifies its location.
How does PET work?
Radioactive glucose (sugar) called a radiotracer is injected into the vein of your arm. The tracer travels through the body and is absorbed by the organs and tissues being studied. The energy emitted by the tracer is converted into 3-D pictures.
How is a PET scan different from a CT or MRI scan?
A PET scan reveals energy changes at the cellular level. This allows detection of small cancers, differentiation between benign and malignant tumors, and allows accurate staging. CT and MRI scans detect structural organ or tissue changes that occur with more progressed diseases.
What are the risks associated with a PET scan?
Radiation exposure is low with the use of a radiotracer chemical. Pregnant and lactating women should discuss any pertinent information with their physician, including the risks compared to the need for the procedure.
What can I expect with a PET scan?
- To provide complete medical history and a list of current medications.
- To have a blood glucose (sugar) level drawn and receive a radiotracer injection into your arm.
- To rest quietly for 45 – 60 minutes to allow the tracer to circulate through your body.
- To be positioned on the scanning bed, after which the bed will slowly move into the scanner.
- To breathe normally and remain very still throughout the 20-minute procedure so the most accurate images are obtained.
How do I prepare for a PET scan?
- Do not eat or drink 6 hours prior to your exam.
- Take all regular medications with water, except diabetic medications.
- Oral diabetic medications cannot be taken within six hours of your scan. Insulin should NOT be injected within 4 hours of the scan. Blood glucose should be less than 200 before receiving the injection of radioactive glucose. For glucose levels above 200, please contact our PET facility prior to your appointment time.
- Discuss with your physician if you anticipate experiencing anxiety or claustrophobia. You may be prescribed a mild sedative to bring to your appointment. If so, please arrange for transportation home.
- Wear comfortable clothes.
- Expect the procedure to last a total of two hours.
- Provide 24-hour advance notice to reschedule.
What happens after the PET scan?
Eat normally and drink plenty of fluids after your scan is completed. You should not experience any side effects from the scan.
When will I receive results of the PET scan?
Scan results will be sent to your referring physician. Your physician will follow up to discuss your results.