A Positron Emission Tomography (“PET”) scan is an imaging test that allows your doctor to check for diseases in your body.
The scan uses a special dye that has radioactive tracers. These tracers are injected into a vein in your arm. Your organs and tissues then absorb the tracer when highlighted under a PET scan. The tracers help your doctor see how well your organs and tissues are working. The PET scan can measure blood flow, oxygen use, glucose metabolism (how your body uses sugar), and much more.
Why a PET Scan Is Performed
Your doctor may order a PET scan to inspect the blood flow, oxygen intake and metabolism of organs and tissues, they are commonly used to uncover:
- -Heart problems
- -Brain disorders
- -Central nervous system disorders
PET scans give doctors glimpses of complex systemic diseases, as they show disorders at the cellular level. Here are a few examples:
- -coronary artery disease
- -brain tumors
Risks of a PET Scan
The PET scan involves radioactive tracers, however, the exposure to radiation is minimal. According to the Mayo Clinic, radiation levels are too low to affect normal processes in your body. The risks of the test are minimal compared with the benefits the results from diagnosing serious medical conditions.
However, radiation exposure is unsafe for developing fetuses. If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, do not get a PET scan.
How a PET Scan Is Performed
Before the scan, you’ll get tracers through a vein in your arm, a solution you drink, or in a gas. Your body needs time to absorb the tracers, so you’ll wait about an hour before the scan begins.
Next, you’ll undergo the scan. This involves lying on a narrow table attached to a PET machine, which looks like a giant letter “O”. The table glides slowly into the machine so that the scan can be conducted.
During the scan, lie still. The technician will let you know when it is that you need to remain still. You may be asked to hold your breath for short periods. You’ll hear various buzzing and clicking noises during the test.
When all the necessary images have been recorded, you will slide out of the machine.
After the PET Scan
After the test, you can go about your day unless your doctor gives you other instructions. Drink plenty of fluids after the test to help flush the tracers out of your system. Generally, all tracers leave your body after a few days.