What is PET/CT?

PET/CT is a diagnostic imaging system that combines PET and CT into one unit. PET (Positron Emission Tomography) utilizes a low-level radiopharmaceutical to visualize metabolic activity within the body to help diagnose, stage, or guide your clinician in the treatment of cancer. CT stands for Computed Tomography (otherwise known as a “Cat Scan”). This technique uses x-rays to make cross-sectional images (called slices) of your body. PET/CT combines both functional and anatomical information into one single scan. This allows your doctor the ability to pinpoint the exact location of interest and determine its functional status. PET/CT scans have been shown to provide more accurate diagnoses than the two scans performed separately.

What to Expect

You will first receive a small injection of a radiopharmaceutical contrast about 90 minutes before the actual scan. It will not make you feel any different. When it is time for your scan, you will be asked to lie on the patient table, which moves through the PET/CT scanner. It is important to lie quietly and be as still as you can during the examination. Depending on the type of study, you may also receive a contrast medium at the time of the CT portion. This is a dye that increases the quality of the CT images. The contrast medium may be administered orally, or by injection, or both. Some patients report a warm feeling or an unusual taste in their mouth from the contrast medium. The CT portion of the machine may make some whirring and clicking noises. Plan on being at our facility for approximately 2 1/2 hours from the time you check to the time you leave our facility following your examination. The entire PET/CT examination is generally performed in less than a half hour, providing comprehensive diagnostic information to the clinicians and attending physicians quickly.

Patient Preparation

• Must be able to lie still for up to 90 minutes.

• Do not wear anything with metal (zippers, snaps, hooks). Athletic wear with elastic waistband is a good choice.

• Take necessary pain medications before leaving home and bring additional pain medication with you at time of visit.

• Claustrophobic patients should take Valium prior to leaving home and arrive with a driver.

• May take any other prescribed medications, as long as they can be tolerated on an empty stomach.

• No food for 6 hours prior to study. May drink water, but no other type of liquid is allowed.

• Glucose levels will be checked prior to exam.

• Insulin dependent patients may bring insulin with them to be administered after their scan.

• No physical activity for 48 hours prior to exam.