PET/CT combines Positron Emission Tomography (PET) with Computed Tomography (CT) technology to aid in the diagnosis of cancer, determining the extent to which cancer has spread, and assessing how a patient is responding to treatment. In addition, PET can be used to evaluate patients with cardiac and neurological disorders, such as seizures and dementia.
PET/CT is a nuclear medicine test that uses special imaging cameras and a radioactive solution called FDG (Flurodeoxyglucose) to create very clear pictures of cell metabolism. CT uses X-rays to provide detailed information about the location, size and shape of lesions or growths in the body. When combined in a single machine, the two techniques provide accurate, specific information about where abnormalities are located and whether they are cancerous.
When is PET/CT used?
The doctor may order this procedure to find:
- Early coronary artery disease.
- Damaged or dead heart muscle.
- The effect of drugs on the heart and brain.
- Early brain changes and diseases.
- Abnormal tissue or tumors.
- Shifts in blood distribution.
- Areas affected by a stroke or blood clot.
What happens during a PET/CT procedure?
The PET technician injects a low-level radioactive material and an organic chemical into your vein. If you are having a brain scan, we’ll ask you to wait in a quiet, dimly lit room to avoid stimulating your brain.
After 60-90 minutes (which allows the solution to distribute itself through your body), you will lie down on an examining table that slides into the PET machine. You will be able to communicate with the technician during the procedure, which will take about 45 minutes.
The scan shows the distribution of the radioactive material and what is happening in the organs. Images taken by the technician will reveal the health of the scanned organs.
What are the benefits and risks?
A PET/CT scan is a valuable tool in seeing changes at a cellular level and in diagnosing abnormalities. Rarely, a patient can have an allergic reaction to the chemical used in the scan, and we are equipped to handle that remote possibility immediately.