Your Doctor Ordered a PET-CT Scan? Here?s What You Need to Know

Posted by petct on June 19th, 2017

Most people have heard of positron emission tomography scans, or PET for short. Even more have probably heard about computerized tomography (CT) scans or have even had them. Many, however, may be a little confused when their doctors order PET-CT scans. This routine imaging test combines the benefits of both the PET and CT scans into a single procedure. This test is designed to provide information that is much more highly detailed than either test can provide on its own.

A CT scan is designed to take X-rays from a number of points around the body. The PET scan uses a low-dose radioactive tracer (dye) to enable certain parts of the body where cell activity is higher than normal to show up in imaging. When the two tests are combined, doctors can glean a great deal of information to help them diagnose or rule out a condition without the need for more invasive procedures. A PET-CT scan may also be used during the course of treatment for certain conditions, such as cancer, to determine if treatments are working.

If a doctor orders a PET-CT scan, patients can expect this procedure to take place on an outpatient basis in most cases. The technology required for such a test is generally only available in certain imaging centers or at larger hospitals. Here are a few things that patients need to know before undergoing a PET-CT scan:

  • Why the scan is being performed – PET-CT scans are most commonly used in the diagnosis and/or treatment of cancer. This test may be ordered to confirm cancer’s presence, to help with staging, to determine if surgery is feasible or to check to see if cancer has recurred, among other reasons. If the reason the test is being ordered isn’t clear, patients should consult with their doctors.

  • What needs to be done to get ready – The specific pre-test orders may vary based on the procedure ordered. In most cases, however, patients will be asked to refrain from eating for at least six hours before a scan. Heavy exercise might be off-limits for 24 hours. People with diabetes or other concerns that make fasting difficult should speak with their healthcare providers for specific instructions.

  • What happens during the screening – Before the test beings, patients are generally asked to dress in a hospital gown and to remove any jewelry or metal objects, such as hairclips or watches. Once these things are taken care of, the radiographer will inject the tracer required for the test. This is typically takes about an hour to ensure the tracer has circulated throughout the body before the procedure begins. Once it does, all patients need to do is lie down on a table, which will then be passed through a doughnut-shaped machine. Most visits take between 2 to 3 hours to complete.

A PET-CT scan is designed to provide doctors a look within the body without requiring an invasive procedure to do so. If a doctor recommends this test and questions about it or the cause for having it ordered remain, be sure to ask questions.

About Author

PET / CT of Las Colinas was developed with both patients and physicians in mind and our services have been used for various types of disease; primarily in detecting, staging and monitoring cancer, but also in heart disease and brain disorders.

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