Mercy Regional Health Center
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Positron Emission Tomography (PET/CT Scan)

What is positron emission tomography?
What happens during the exam?
How do I prepare for the procedure?
What are the risks?
Will I be able to feel the scan?
How long does the scan take?

When did PET use begin?
What are some common uses for PET?
What if I have claustrophobia?


What is positron emission tomography?
Positron emission tomography, or PET, is a diagnostic test that is a painless, non-invasive way to help your doctor evaluate your health. Typically, your doctor has seen an irregularity on another type of test, such as a CT or MRI scan, and wants further investigation. PET has been proven to be effective in the diagnosis of many diseases. It is part of a field of medicine called nuclear medicine.
 
PET creates special images that show the functioning, or metabolism, of your body's cells. Abnormal metabolism levels in the cells may indicate the presence of disease.

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What happens during the exam?
When you check in for the exam, your glucose level will be tested. A technologist will escort you to the PET scanner mobile unit. Then you will be given an injection of radiolabeled tracer. It will take about 30 to 50 minutes for the tracer to be absorbed by the body. During this time you may sit in a recliner.
 
You will then be asked to lie down on the scanner table. It is very important to remain still during the scan because movement can interfere with the results.
 
A special camera reads the signals as the tracer travels through the body, and a computer translates the signals into the pictures. The signals show up most strongly in areas of the body with heavy cellular function, such as organs.

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How do I prepare for the procedure?
Please arrive at least 20 minutes before your appointment to be checked in for your exam. You may be asked to wear a hospital gown.
 
You will be asked to not eat or drink anything but water for at least four hours before the scan. This is to make sure your body absorbs the tracer effectively.
 
You may be given some medicine to help you stay quiet during the scan or to reduce your bladder activity.

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What are the risks?
There are no known patient risks from the tracer or the PET scan. You should feel no discomfort from the tracer or the scan itself. You are safe to be with your loved ones immediately after the scan.
 
PET scans are not considered safe for women who are pregnant, so let your doctor know if you are or may be pregnant or breastfeeding.

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Will I be able to feel the scan?
You should not feel anything during the scan. You may experience some minor discomfort from the injection of the tracer.

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How long does the scan take?
It will take a total of 60 to 90 minutes for the preparation and scan. Then, unless the doctor sees a need for additional images, you are free to leave. You may immediately go back to your normal activities after the scan.

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When did PET use begin?
PET first came into use for medical imaging in the 1990s, and numerous clinical trials have proven its effectiveness in diagnosing a number of diseases.

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What are some common uses for PET?
PET can show whether coronary heart disease is present, and can help indicate whether a heart bypass or transplant is needed. It can help a doctor tell whether a tumor is benign or cancerous, and whether an abnormality is scar tissue or cancer. It is also useful to diagnose the cause of brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and seizures.

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What if I have claustrophobia?
If you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), let your doctor know. The doctor may prescribe medication to help you stay calm and still during the scan.

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