What is a PET/CT scan?
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Computed Tomography (CT) are combined into one system to create images with information about both anatomy and physiology. PET uses an injected radioactive isotope that is attached to a sugar molecule so it will collect in areas where the body is using sugar. These areas of activity may be normal or may be indications of disease, depending on where they are located. The CT portion of the exam is used to create images that help locate precisely where the areas of activity are located within the body.
At Regional West Medical Center, we use a PET/CT combination of machines to create the best possible images. These exams are scheduled Monday through Friday in the afternoon only. Your primary care physician must refer you for a PET/CT scan. At least one day advance notice is necessary so the isotope can be ordered, since the isotope used for PET/CT is created specifically for each patient for his or her size and appointment time. Because these drugs expire within hours, it is very important to be on time for a nuclear medicine exam and to let the Imaging Services Department know more than one day ahead if you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment. You can call or reschedule by calling the Imaging Services main desk at 308-630-1140.
What to expect if you are a patient
For a PET/CT exam, patients must first come into the Imaging Services Department for the isotope injection into a vein. You will then be asked to rest quietly for about an hour so the isotope has time to circulate throughout the body. Because this study relies on the body’s use of sugar, it is important to keep muscles quiet right before the exam, so they aren’t using sugar during the scan. To help assure a quality exam, PET/CT patients are also asked to restrict their diet to cut out sugar for 24 hours before the scan. You will be given a copy of the diet ahead of time to know exactly what you can and cannot eat.
After the relaxation time, the patient will lie on the table while the CT scan is done and the computer creates cross-sectional images. While the patient remains on the table, the PET camera will measure the radioactivity coming from within the body. Computers then create an image of the body that shows the location from which the radioactivity is coming. The images of the areas of activity are fused into the CT scan images, creating cross sectional images that can show precisely where the areas of radioactivity are located.
While in the Nuclear Medicine Department, you will be cared for by a registered radiologic technologist. This is a person who is specially trained in performing nuclear medicine exams and is certified in this specialty by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). The technologist will perform a blood glucose test and inject the radioactive isotope. He or she also assists the patient onto the scanning table and operates the equipment. The technologist is with you throughout the exam.
The completed images are examined by a board certified radiologist who specializes in interpreting this type of exam. The report that is created is sent directly to your physician, who will then contact you with the results.