Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

We understand the importance of knowing how your body is functioning. With PET scans, our doctors can evaluate a wide range of conditions that other scans can’t, including brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and a variety of cancers. These scans allow our doctors to provide more accurate diagnoses, targeted treatments and better outcomes for our patients.

A positron-emission tomography scan, or PET scan for short, is a nuclear imaging procedure that uses a combination of computer technology and a radioactive imaging agent called a tracer to produce clear, high-resolution images of the body and its various functions in real-time and in 3-D.

PET scans are valuable in treating different forms of cancer because the radioactive tracer is usually bonded with sugar. The radioactive sugar collects in cancer cells, which will show up on images and can help in cancer diagnosis and staging. A PET scan is often done in combination with a CT scan and may be useful in evaluating whether cancer has spread to other organs such as the liver or lung. 

PET scans allow your doctor to pinpoint afflictions and conditions related to cancer, heart disease and brain disorders.

Before the scan, you will receive a dosage of the radioactive tracer through an IV. The tracer contains glucose in order to image how the body is metabolizing sugar. It is important to not eat carbohydrates or foods containing sugar at least 24 hours prior to your scan. Once you’ve received the tracer, you will be asked to wait at least an hour in order to let your body absorb it.

During the scan, you lie on a moving bed that enters through the PET scanning machine, similar to a CT or MRI scan. The scanning machine looks like a small tunnel that wraps itself around your entire body. The tunnel delivers and picks up low-dosage radiation to image the different organs in your body.

The PET scanning machine then sends the information received to a computer controlled by a radiologist and located in a separate room. The computer processes the information to produce the slices and cross-sections for analysis.

Your radiologist monitors you and the PET scanner throughout the entire process. Should you feel uncomfortable or need assistance, a microphone allows you to speak to them at all times.

The entire scan takes roughly 20 to 40 minutes.

PET scans are a type of nuclear imaging test, which means a small amount of radiation exposure is common. Because the exposure is minimal, the test itself is a proven method for safe imaging. Any complications that may occur during the procedure relate to how the radioactive agent is injected. These complications can include minor bleeding or swelling at the injection site and often do not occur.