P.E.T. Scan

P.E.T. (Positron Emission Tomography) is a powerful diagnostic tool that, in many cases, renders answers that no other imaging test can provide

P.E.T. (Positron Emission Tomography) is a powerful diagnostic tool that, in many cases, renders answers that no other imaging test can provide. Used in conjunction with CT (Computed Tomography) imaging or on its own, P.E.T. is a non-invasive procedure that helps physicians in their diagnosis and treatment of some types of cancer, heart disease, and diseases associated with the brain. P.E.T. imaging can reveal metabolic changes in your body that will be further examined by your physician. The use of P.E.T. imaging is helping our facility to provide the most advanced level of patient care possible. This guide should give you a general over view about P.E.T. and what applications it is commonly used for. Please consult your physician for any specific questions you have about P.E.T. exams that are not addressed here.

What are the benefits of P.E.T. for patients?

  • Detailed diagnostic information, not available from other tests (like CT, MR)
  • Can be combined with other imaging modalities (like CT and MR) for even greater diagnostic confidence in oncology and other applications
  • Shorter time for definitive diagnosis and faster appointments
  • Earlier detection of disease with fewer invasive diagnostic procedures
  • Improved staging of the disease and better monitoring of cancer
  • More effective tracking of the results of treatment therapy
  • May help to avoid surgical intervention
  • Can contribute to lowering the overall cost of care

What are the clinical applications of P.E.T.?

Most common applications of P.E.T. are in the fields of oncology, cardiology and neurology. ONCOLOGY (cancer) is the most important application of P.E.T. and provides vital diagnostic information that can alter the course of cancer treatment and sometimes help to avoid unwarranted surgery. P.E.T. provides critical information about whether a tumor is malignant or not; the extent of cancer; whether it has spread to other organs or not; monitoring of cancer recurrences; and monitoring the effectiveness of treatment therapy. CARDIOLOGY (heart) is another important application, where P.E.T. provides a high level of accuracy for measurement of myocardial perfusion and viability. This procedure enables the clinician to determine the value and course of treatment for patients with heart disease.  

For NEUROLOGY (brain), P.E.T. provides accurate information to localize the areas of the brain causing epileptic seizures and to determine if surgery is an option. In the future, it is possible that P.E.T. will be accepted as an imaging method of choice for such conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

How long does the exam take and does it hurt?

In most cases you will be on the scanner table for less than an hour. The scan itself causes no pain. An IV line could be started in your hand or arm in order to infuse a radiopharmaceutical. Occasionally, a urinary catheter may need to be inserted for the scan.

What is being injected for the scan and why?

For P.E.T. scans, a very small amount of a radiopharmaceutical is infused into the bloodstream. The substance contains radioactive molecules that provide imaging information when absorbed, or concentrated in tissue. Areas with rapid cell growth, such as malignant tumors, will show much higher concentrations of the dose than normal healthy tissue. A computer records this information and converts it into pictures for diagnostic purposes. The amount of radiation you will receive is about the same as any other radiology procedure. You should not feel any side effects from the material. Most of the radioactivity will be gone by the time you leave the department.

How do I prepare for the exam?


You are not allowed to eat for four hours prior to your appointment. Also refrain from exercising 24 hours prior to your scan.

We will ask what medications you take when you schedule your appointment. You will be provided further instructions at that time. If you feel you will need sedation or are a diabetic, contact us for further instructions prior to your scheduled appointment.

Notify your physician of any allergies before the exam.

Most claustrophobic patients are able to tolerate a P.E.T. scan. Only the par t of your body being scanned will be in the machine. In addition, the scanner makes little noise.

During the scan, we ask that you are in a quiet, resting state. It is extremely important that you lie still throughout the scan.

What happens after the scan?

It is important that you drink as much water as possible for the rest of the day and empty your bladder as often as possible. This will result in a more rapid clearance of radioactivity from your body. You can drive and resume normal activities immediately after leaving the department, unless you have received sedation.


When will I get the final results?

The final results will be given to your referring physician as soon as the images are analyzed, usually within two working days.

Will insurance cover P.E.T.?

Many insurance companies are reimbursing for some P.E.T. procedures, including Medicare . Please contact your insurer directly to learn about payment reimbursement.