What is a PET/CT?
A PET/CT is a breakthrough technology that enables physicians to diagnose and locate disease quickly and accurately. More technically, PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography and CT means Computed Tomography. This is the first time these two technologies have been combined into a single sophisticated scanning system.
What this means is that PET/CT will
- Increase patient comfort because the examination time is shorter
- Produce results in less time than required by using separate procedures
- Eliminate the “wait and see” approach because accurate, comprehensive information becomes more quickly available to your doctor
- More rapid initiation of the best possible treatment, while potentially avoiding the need for invasive procedures such as biopsies and/or exploratory surgery
Why do you need a PET/CT?
Your PET/CT scan results may have a major impact on your diagnosis of a potential health problem. Should a disease be detected, the information provided by this examination will help medical professionals prescribe the best possible course of treatment.
A PET/CT study not only diagnoses specific problems, it also helps physicians predict the likely outcome of various therapeutic alternatives, prescribe the best approach to treatment, and more accurately monitor your progress.
This advanced technology is valued by radiologists, nuclear medicine professionals, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, neurologists, pediatric specialists, and your own physician because of the specific information it provides, including:
- Accurate location of lesions
- Identification of benign versus malignant lesions, and differentiation from scar tissue
- Information to help stage cancer
- Reduction of false positives and false negatives
- Accurate detection of coronary artery disease
- Metabolic brain imaging
- Information to aid in surgical and radiation treatment planning
- Ability to monitor effectiveness of treatment while it is in progress
Please discuss with your doctor what he or she expects to learn from your PET/CT examination.
What happens once I get there?
After your medical history and the results of any prior examinations are reviewed; you will receive a radiopharmaceutical injection, which enables the radiologist to interpret the scan results.
The radiopharmaceutical must first distribute itself throughout your body and this will take 60 minutes before your scan. You will be in a recliner and asked to stay still during the distribution of the radioactive tracer. You may be able to read or listen to music until your scan begins.
If you are here for a brain scan, we will ask you to relax in a quiet, dimly lit room, without stimulating your brain by reading or talking.
If you are scheduled for a heart study, you may not have to wait at all. The radiopharmaceutical used for cardiac exams are often administered just before the scanning process begins.
What will the scan be like?
You will lie on a comfortable table that moves slowly through the ring-like PET/CT scanner while it acquires the information needed to generate diagnostic images. We will ask you to lie very still because movement can interfere with the results.
The scan will take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. You will be comfortable during the examination. Unless the radiologist sees a need for acquiring additional information, you may get ready to leave.
How long does all this take?
Plan on spending two to three hours with us. Your exam procedure will vary depending on what we are looking for, and what we discover along the way. Our staff will do their utmost to make you comfortable and keep you informed about your progress.
What happens after the examination?
You should feel fine. There are no side effects from the barium and injected tracer and the radiation exposure is small. You may drive home after the procedure. Again, if diabetic, it is preferable to be escorted. You may leave as soon as the scan is complete. Unless you have received special instructions, you will be able to eat and drink normally.
In the meantime, we will begin preparing the results for review by our radiologist. Your physician will discuss your results with you in detail.
Are there risks associated with PET/CT?
A PET/CT study is similar to many other diagnostic procedures from MRI to Nuclear Medicine. Although the radiation you receive is different, it’s about equivalent to what you’d receive from a couple of chest X-rays.
The radiopharmaceuticals used in the PET/CT do not remain in your system very long, so there is no reason to avoid interacting with other people once you’ve left. To be extra safe, wait a few hours before getting too close to an infant, or anyone who is pregnant.
What preparation do I need to take for the Scan?
Please limit your carbohydrate intake 24 hours prior to the PET/CT.
YOU MAY HAVE: Green Leafy Vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, string beans, lettuce, etc), Cheese, Eggs, Meats (pork, beef, veal, chicken, any kind of seafood), Coffee, Tea (limit artificial sweeteners to 1 to 2 servings the day before your study). Limit Milk to 1 or 2 glasses the day before your study.
DO NOT EAT: Pasta, Potatoes, Rice, Bread, Cereal, Fruits, Sweets, Cakes, Soda (Limit diet soda to 1 or 2), Cough Drops, Cough Medicine, Mints, Gum.
The Day of your Study
DO NOT eat for six (6) hours before your test, but you may drink up to 8 ounces of water.
What Happens if I am Diabetic?
If you are scheduled BEFORE NOON, do not eat after midnight, but you may drink up to 8 ounces of water. If you are on oral hypoglycemic medication or insulin, do not take your morning dose until the test is completed. If you are scheduled AFTER NOON, you can eat breakfast and take your regular morning dose of diabetic medication, however, do not eat or drink anything for at least six hours prior to the PET scan. Try to limit high carbohydrate containing foods for breakfast such as cereal, juice, milk, etc. Eat non-carbohydrate items including eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. It is preferable for someone to drive you to and from testing. Please also carry a candy bar, which can be used in case of hypoglycemia.
Please consult your physician with any additional questions or concerns.