Have you ever wondered how doctors are able to diagnose diseases of the internal organs? How are they able to see what the organs look like? A PET scan is a diagnostic procedure that allows doctors to see if your organs are functioning like they should be. This lesson discusses what a PET scan is, why it is used and potential side effects of having this procedure done.
What Is a PET Scan?
A PET scan is an imaging test that shows how well your tissues and organs are working, especially metabolism, oxygen use, and blood flow to the organs. PET stands for positron emission tomography. The picture below shows what a PET scan machine looks like.
The tracer will only be active in the body for two to ten hours after it was injected.
The radiation will eventually lose potency and will leave the body in your urine. Patients are advised to drink plenty of water after the procedure to help speed up this process.
Why Is a PET Scan Performed?
Since PET scans can show how your internal organs are working, it is a great test to look for diseases and functionality of the organs. These include:
- Cancer, including detection, showing whether cancer treatments have been effective, and if cancer has returned
- Brain disorders, such as tumors, seizures, and Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease, including weakened heart muscles, blockages, and decreased blood flow
- Detection of abnormalities or masses throughout the whole body
What Will the Patient Experience?
Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare before a PET scan, but there are some general guidelines to follow. Most patients are advised to not eat or drink four to six hours before the scan. Eating or drinking can give misleading information about metabolism in the organs and give false positives or negatives.
When the patient arrives at the facility (hospital or diagnostic imaging center), they will be asked to change into a gown and set up with an IV. This IV will instill the tracer into the bloodstream so that it can circulate through the body and all of the organs, which usually takes one hour. The patient will be taken back to the PET scan room and asked to lie on the table. It is very important that the patient stay very still during the scan. Movements can make the pictures appear blurry, and the scan will have to be repeated all over again. A PET scan usually lasts about 30 minutes. Once the scan is over, the IV will be removed from the patient, and they will be allowed to go home the same day.
In general, a PET scan is a very safe procedure that has very few risks. The patient might experience some mild discomfort when having to stay still on a hard table during the scan, and one might have discomfort from where the IV was placed. In rare cases, the tracer may cause an allergic reaction in some patients. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to speak to their doctor before receiving a PET scan.
A PET scan is a way to visualize the functioning of your internal organs. PET stands for positron emission tomography.
The scan requires that a radioactive material, also called a tracer, is injected into the bloodstream. When the patient is having a PET scan, the machine identifies the tracer in the body and turns the tracers signals into 3D images that can be read by a radiographer. It can be a great diagnostic tool to detect cancer, heart and brain conditions, and abnormal masses throughout the whole body.
There are few risks associated with the procedure, and the patient will be able to go home the same day.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.