PET Scan

on June 13, 2013

What Is A PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography)?
A PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan is an imaging technique that uses positively charged particles (radioactive positrons) to detect subtle changes in the body's metabolism and chemical activities. A PET scan provides a color-coded image of the body's function, rather than its structure.

During a PET scan, a substance called a tracer that produces radioactive positrons either is injected into a vein or inhaled as a gas. This tracer is typically a chemical that is normally found in the body (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen) that has been altered to allow it to emit positrons. Once the tracer enters the body, it travels through the bloodstream to a specific target organ, such as the brain or heart. There the tracer emits positrons, which collide with electrons (negatively charged particles), producing gamma rays (similar to X-rays). These gamma rays are detected by a ring-shaped PET scanner and analyzed by a computer to form an image of the target organ's metabolism or other functions. PET scans are simple, painless, and fast, offering patients and their families life-saving information that helps physicians detect and diagnose diseases early and quickly begin treatment. PET scanning and molecular imaging provide real life answers to better diagnose illness, guide treatment options, and give patients ultimate control over their critical and vital health care decisions. 

Common Uses Of The PET Scan
A PET scan allows physicians to measure the body's abnormal molecular cell activity to detect:
  • Cancer (such as breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, lymphoma, melanoma and other skin cancers) 
  • Brain Disorders (such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and epilepsy)
  • Heart Disease (such as coronary artery disease). 

Patient Preparation For A PET Scan

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing with no metal for your scan. 
  • You may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure.
  • You will need to fast (nothing to eat or drink, except for water) at least 6 hours before your exam. You may drink water before your exam. 
  • Refrain from strenuous activity 48 hours before the test.
  • Diabetic patients, please check your Blood Glucose, it must be below 200mg/dl to complete your PET scan.
Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

Note: If you are insulin dependent for diabetes, we encourage you to schedule your PET scan around 1:00 p.m., so you can eat a light breakfast and take your medicine the day of your exam.