A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a unique type of imaging test that helps doctors see how the organs and tissues inside your body are functioning.
Hours and Location
PET scans are provided at our Faxton Campus from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To schedule an appointment or for more information, please call 315-624-4600.
More Information About Our PET Scan Services
The test involves injecting a very small dose of a radioactive chemical called a radiotracer into the vein of the patient’s arm. The tracer travels through the body and is absorbed by the organs and tissues being studied. The patient will be asked to lie down on a flat examination table that is moved into the center of a PET scanner — a doughnut-shaped machine. This machine detects and records the energy given off by the tracer substance, and with the aid of a computer, this energy is converted into three-dimensional pictures. A physician can then look at cross-sectional images of the organ from any angle in order to detect functional problems.
Once injected into a vein, it typically takes 45 minutes to one hour for the radiotracer to travel throughout the body and absorb into the organs or tissues to be examined. The scan itself may take another 30 to 60 minutes. Heart and brain studies take less time for imaging. You will be asked to remain still for the entire length of the exam, since motion reduces the quality of the images. If you think you will have a difficult time doing this, please talk with your doctor about taking a medication to help you relax
Although a radiotracer chemical is used in this test, the amount of radiation you are exposed to is low. The dose of tracer used is so small that it does not affect the normal processes of the body. However, the radiotracer may expose the fetus of patients who are pregnant or infants of women who breastfeed to the radiation. PET scans typically are not performed an pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding should refrain for at least 20 hours after their PET scan.
A PET scan can measure vital functions such as blood flow, oxygen use and glucose metabolism, which helps doctors identify abnormal from normal functioning organs and tissues. The scan can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a patient’s treatment plan, allowing the course of care to be adjusted if necessary.
Currently, PET scans are most commonly used to detect cancer, heart problems (such as coronary artery disease and damage to the heart following a heart attack), brain disorders (including brain tumors, memory disorders and seizures) and other central nervous system disorders.
One of the main differences between PET scans and other imaging tests like a CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is that the PET scan reveals the cellular level metabolic changes occurring in an organ or tissue. This is important because disease processes often begin with functional changes at the cellular level. A PET scan can often detect these early changes whereas a CT or MRI detect changes at a later point once the disease has begun to impact the structure of organs or tissues.
A PET scan is usually done on an outpatient basis and the doctor will provide detailed instructions on how to prepare for the scan, including what may or may not be eaten or drank before the exam. Before undergoing the scan, the patient will need to tell the technologist of any medications — prescription and over-the-counter — they are taking as well as any herbal medications and vitamins. If the patient is taking certain medications or has certain diseases, such as diabetes, they will be given specific instructions regarding preparation for the scan. Generally, most patients are told not to eat anything for a minimum of six hours before the scan. Heart patients are also told to not take any product with caffeine for at least 24 hours. Comfortable clothes should be worn to the appointment and it may be necessary to change into a hospital gown during the test. In those patients that need an assessment of the area near the bladder, a bladder catheter may need to be inserted.
It is essential for the patient to tell the doctor if they are pregnant or think they may be pregnant before undergoing a PET scan because of radiation exposure.
The American College of Radiology (ACR) has designated Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare as a Positron Emission Tomography Center of Excellence.