PET is an acronym that stands for positron emission tomography. A PET scan is an advantageous nuclear medicine exam that assists physicians in diagnosing, detecting, and evaluating various cancers and diseases. As an imaging test, a PET scan reveals the functional condition of your body’s organs and tissues. Unlike other common imaging techniques that examine internal structures by appearance, such as CT scans, PET scans offer a unique view of internal processes on a cellular level.
If you’re not aware of the inner workings of this procedure, you likely have a few questions about how it works. Here’s what to know before you get a PET scan.
How PET Scans Work
To better understand this imaging exam, it’s a good idea to learn more about how PET Scanners use radioactive isotopes. Radioactive isotopes are innovative, scientific tools that medical professionals typically use in drug research and development. They also have numerous controlled medical applications. PET Scans utilize radioactive isotopes in the form of a small amount of a radioactive tracer.
You should know before you get a PET scan that the radiation exposure is fairly low. Furthermore, it’s not harmful or painful. After the procedure, the radiotracers leave the body within several hours. Consult your physician about any individual concerns or risks you may have.
What To Expect
With a PET scan, you can expect to receive a radiotracer injection in your arm. After the injection, you’ll need to rest quietly to allow the tracer to circulate. During the scan, you’ll lie on an examination bed that will then move into the PET scanner machine for image capturing. You’ll need to remain still throughout the scan for accurate imaging results.
Details About Standard PET Scan Procedure
As mentioned above, a common PET scan procedure involves the use of radiation. A radiotracer contains radioactive material tagged to an organic chemical contrast. Usually, that chemical is glucose. To better target an area or body organ, a technologist generally injects the contrast into a vein alongside the radioactive tracer. This combination transmits information that the machine can interpret as a multi-dimensional image.
You must wait the appropriate length of time for a radiotracer to reach its target area. Once it does, the PET machine will scan the body to detect radiation from the radiotracer. The imaging tool utilizes the radiotracer to provide details on details, such as oxygen use, blood flow, and sugar metabolism activity. Radiologists interpret the results of these images and discuss their findings with your physician. After further examination, your doctor will follow up with you to discuss your results and next steps.