PET scan for better views of organ and tissue function

PET is a type of nuclear medicine imaging used to determine how organs and tissues are functioning. Commonly it is done to see whether and how much cancer has spread in the body and also to assess how well cancer treatment is working. It may also be used to determine brain function, evaluate how well blood is flowing to and from the heart, and to determine whether a mass in the lung is benign (harmless) or malignant (cancerous).

The scan involves injecting, swallowing, or inhaling of radionuclide (also called radiotracer or radioactive tracer) which moves through the body to the diseased area, leaving positron emissions given off by the tracer. A special camera is able to pick up the radioactive emissions, which accumulate in the problem area, and produce a picture of molecular activity in that part of the body.

Preparing for PET scan

You will be given specific instructions before your procedure. PET scan preparation may include not eating or drinking beforehand. You may also be asked to temporarily stop taking certain medications. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing. You may be given a mild sedative to help you relax but you will be awake throughout the procedure. The radionuclide tracer is injected through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. You will feel slight pain and pressure while the needle is inserted. You will then need to wait for about an hour while the radioactive material works its way through the body. Once this is complete, the technician will take pictures of the areas of concern.

A radiologist will examine the results of your PET scan and will prepare a report for your doctor. Your doctor will then go over the results with you and discuss any additional testing or treatment recommendations, if needed.

To schedule a PET scan appointment at Main Line Health, call 484.337.2200.