A PET Scan or Positive Emission Tomography Scan is a nuclear imaging technique that produces detailed, computerized images of internal orangs and tissues of the body. It is typically used for uncovering areas that showcase signs of abnormal metabolic activities or for studying an on-going cardiology, neurology or cancer treatment. The images produced in a PET scan are far different and better as compared to those obtained after a Computerized Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans. Usually, physicians order a combination of CT and PET Scan as the two together render information that is much more useful and enables better diagnosis of chronic ailments, especially cancer, than when ordered individually.
Knowing About PET Scan Process
During a PET Scan, a special dye containing radioactive tracers is used. These tracers are carefully injected into one of the veins of the body, which are further absorbed by organs and tissues. Once absorbed, these highlight under a PET scanner and help a physician in viewing how well the tissues and organs are functioning. With the help of a PET Scan and radioactive traces, a physician can study a broad range of internal body activities, such as measure the flow of blood, use of oxygen, metabolic activities, and much more.
A PET Scan is generally an outpatient procedure. This means that a patient need not spend a night in the hospital. He/she can go back home once the scan is over. Also, the imaging test involves least risks and is termed as a safe test.
The Uses of a PET Scan
Unlike other imaging tests, a PET Scan showcases problems at the cellular level. These allow physicians to access best views of complex systematic diseases and chronic conditions such as epilepsy, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, etc.
A physician may order a PET scan to study these conditions:-
- The flow of blood to the heart muscles
- Evaluate the presence of abnormalities in the brain, such as seizures, memory disorders, memory loss, and tumors.
- Detect problem with the central nervous system
- Check for the existence of cancerous cells in the body
- Detect whether a particular cancer type has spread to other parts of the body
- Analyze whether the diagnosed lump contains cancer cells
- See how well a chemotherapy is working
Prepare for a PET Scan
Before appearing for a PET Scan, it is highly advised that patients must go through all the preparation instructions. Of these important instructions is to disclose all the necessary information to the concerned doctor, especially about on-going medications prescribed for different medical conditions. A patient may also be instructed not to eat anything for about eight hours before the scan procedure. However, he/she may be allowed consumption of water or other liquid substances.
Furthermore, in the case of pregnant women, the test may serve unsafe for the baby, and hence must be avoided until there aren’t any alternative means of examination available. For those who are diabetes, are given special instructions for test preparation as fasting beforehand could affect their blood sugar level.
Removal of all jewelry and body piercing will be recommended as these pieces of accessories interfere with the testing equipment.
The Actual PET Scan Procedure
As explained above, during the procedure, a patient is injected with radioactive tracers or is asked to consume them in the form of a liquid drink. Since the tissues and organs take time to completely absorb them, particularly the solution is given an hour before the actual test.
Next, the patient will be taken for the scan. He/she will be asked to lie still on the scan table, that’s attached to an “O” shaped machine. The table slowly glides into the “O” vessel where the actual process begins. The technician then signals the patient on when to lie straight, when to hold his/her breath, and even move in order to obtain precise, clear scan images.
Once all the necessary images are recorded, the patient is glided out of the machine. This typically marks the end of the procedure.
After the PET Scan
Post the scan procedure, the patient can go back home the very same day, unless he/she has been suggested other sets of test or is undergoing a treatment that requires him/her to stay overnight in the hospital.
Scan technicians suggest that patients who undergo a PET scan must drink plenty of fluids after the test, as it aids in the removal of tracers from the body. Usually, it takes approximately two days for the tracers to exit the human system.
Meanwhile, the technicians study the scan images recorded, interpret the results and share all the necessary information with the patients and the physicians. The physician further, goes through the results, understands the implications involved, and decides the future course of treatment.
PET Scan Risks Involved
- Though a safe procedure, the exposure to radiation can serve harmful
- Pregnant women must not take a PET Scan test as the radiation waves can be harmful to the baby and also hinder with his/her development.
- Usually, a PET Scan is ordered in combination with a CT Scan to obtain more thorough images. This means that additional radioactive tracers are injected into the body, which can be harmful to individuals with a kidney disease or those who have elevated creatinine levels.
- Radioactive materials come with their own set of risks.
- People who are allergic to tracers may face additional problems.
Who Conducts a PET Scan Process?
A nuclear medicine specialist operates the machine during the procedure. It is done in a private space where a set of technologists assists the physician for conducting the entire process with utmost precision. The nuclear medicine technologist further views the reports and interprets correct and authentic results.
Some alternatives to PET scans
- Blood tests
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Nuclear Medicine Scan
Benefits of a PET scan
The advantages of PET scan are a plethora. Let’s take a look at them:-
- A PET scan aids in the early detection of a number of chronic diseases, such as cancer, epilepsy, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, etc.
- Helps in offering precise treatment and monitoring conditions
- Provides unique information, which apparently other scans fail to render
- Provides information on a cellular level. This means that detecting problems is much more convenient with a PET scan than its counterpart tests and procedures.
- Nuclear medicine and PET Scan procedure is relatively less expensive.
- Be aware beforehand about the risks involved in a PET Scan
- Leave your valuables accessories such as jewelry, body piercings at home.
- Inform the physician about on-going medications prescribed for controlling diseases, humanly conditions, pregnancy, and diabetes.
- Getting a PET procedure done from a renowned medical facility is highly advised.
- Take proper medications and follow instructions as suggested by the technicians and physicians.