Positron emission tomography (PET or PET scan) is a type of nuclear medicine imaging. This diagnostic procedure uses very small amounts of radioactive material (isotope) to diagnose a variety of oncologic diseases, as well as brain or bone deficiencies. It is considered to be non-invasive and painless. PET is able to pinpoint molecular activity in the body or brain which makes it possible to identify disease in its earliest stages and to determine a patient’s immediate response to therapeutic interventions like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
A PET/CT provides this information by measuring important body functions in our facility. The images created by PET are superimposed with CT (Computed tomography) to produce special views of the areas being scanned. CT is a tomographic imaging technique that uses an x-ray beam to produce anatomic images. This anatomic information is used to detect and help determine the location and extent of malignancies. Combined PET/CT devices provide both the physiologic/metabolic information from PET and the anatomic information from CT in a single examination. PET/CT acquisitions can include the whole body, an extended portion of the body, or a limited portion of the body. These images can then be viewed and interpreted by our radiologist on a computer. The most common PET scan performed is an F18-FDG PET/CT SCAN. F18-FDG PET is a tomographic imaging technique that uses a radiolabeled analog of glucose, 18F-FDG, to image relative glucose use rates in various tissues. Because glucose use is increased in many malignancies, F18-FDG PET is a sensitive method for detecting, staging, and monitoring the effects of therapy on many malignancies.
On the exam day, you will need to fast 6 hours before your exam, morning appointments will fast after midnight. It is encouraged you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated before arriving at the center and continue your routine medications. If you are diabetic, it is important you do not take any diabetes-related medicine. You will be called the day before your exam to confirm the appointment. It is very important that you are confirmed, otherwise, the isotope for your study cannot be ordered. Once you arrive for your appointment you will be escorted to the PET injection room. Dress warmly in clothing without zippers or metallic objects, no bras, or jewelry. An IV (intravenous) catheter line will be placed in a vein by the technologist. You will then be injected with the isotope through this line. You may experience a mild stinging sensation at the injection site but will have no side effects. There are no side effects whatsoever from this procedure. After injection, you will remain in the room with the lights off to allow the body to relax and let the isotope accumulate and distribute throughout your body appropriately for a minimum of 45 mins to an hour. This isotope gives off a small amount of radioactive energy (comparable to a chest X-Ray) in the form of gamma rays. The special cameras or detectors within the PET machine detect this energy and provide details on the structure and function of your organs and tissues.
After the required time, the PET/CT technologist will lead you to the restroom for you to empty out your bladder as best as possible and then move to the PET/CT machine. The PET/CT scanner is a large doughnut-shaped machine. It is a silent scanner, therefore will be no noise made nor will you require the use of earplugs. You will then be scanned for about 20 to 25 minutes. As this is a combination scanner, PET and CT imaging is done on the same machine, thus reducing imaging time. Once all of the scannings is completed, our board-certified radiologist will review the study and provide an interpretation. Your healthcare provider will receive a written report within 48-72 hours. A copy of the images will be provided to you about 20 minutes after the exam.
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