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Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

  • What is a positron emission tomography (PET) scan?

    Positron emission tomography

    Positron emission tomography (PET) is an advanced medical imaging examination that provides detailed information on the function of an organ or system in your body. It is combined with an anatomical technique such as a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan at the same time. This allows your doctor to assess how functionally “active” an organ or tissue is in conjunction with its appearance. It can allow early detection of abnormalities even before an organ has changed from its normal shape.

    PET scans are commonly used to evaluate and diagnose cancers, neurological (brain) disorders, and cardiovascular (heart) diseases. A PET CT or MRI scan can provide more information in staging cancer than MRI or CT scans alone. It can also show how well a cancer treatment is working. For the heart, a specialised rubidium PET CT scan can determine whether the heart muscle is receiving sufficient blood flow under different conditions.

    During a PET scan, a radionuclide tracer is injected into the bloodstream and images of your body are recorded using a PET scanner. Multi-dimensional images will be acquired and reviewed in detail by a nuclear medicine physician. Detailed images with a colour map will be prepared for you to discuss with your specialist doctor.

    A PET scan is typically an outpatient procedure. This means you can go about your day after the scan is completed.

  • A PET scan can:

    • Measure vital functions, such as blood flow, oxygen use and blood sugar (glucose) metabolism.
    • Identify organs and tissues that aren’t working as they should, or are inflamed.
    • Detect cancerous tumour cells to help gauge cancer spread (metastasis).
    • Evaluate how well a cancer treatment is working.

    Reasons to undergo a PET scan include:

    • Suspected infection or inflammation in the body, including the organs and bones
    • Possible cancer for staging
    • Follow-up after cancer treatment
    • To provide further information on an organ abnormality detected by your doctor or on another imaging study
    • To determine if vital organs such as the heart are receiving adequate blood flow to critical areas
  • Preparing for a positron emission tomography (PET) scan

    Prior to the PET scan, tell your healthcare provider:

    • If you've had a bad allergic reaction in the past.
    • About your health condition like diabetes or pregnancy.
    • About the medications and supplements you are taking.
    • If you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces).

    You will likely be advised to:

    • Avoid strenuous exercises or activities a day before the PET scan.
    • Fast a few hours before the PET scan.

    During a positron emission tomography (PET) scan

    A PET scan is a safe and painless procedure. However, if you suffer from claustrophobia or the fear of enclosed spaces, you may be concerned about entering the machine. Please discuss this with your healthcare provider so that optimal care will be tailored for you.

    A PET scan takes around 30 minutes. It may take longer if special views or MRI are required. You must remain still throughout the procedure as movements can cause blurring to the resulting images. The technologist will give you instructions, such as when to hold your breath and when to remain still. During the scan, you may hear buzzing and clicking sounds.

    After a positron emission tomography (PET) scan

    Unless otherwise instructed by your doctor, you will be allowed to carry on with your usual activities after a PET scan. You will be instructed to drink at least 5 glasses of water.

    Notify the nuclear medicine technologist immediately or contact your doctor if you feel the following symptoms after the scan:

    • Nasal congestion
    • Itchy eyes
    • Hives and rashes
    • Sneezing
    • Restlessness
    • Tremors and pain
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Dizziness
  • Orthopaedic health is one of Mount Elizabeth Hospitals' areas of expertise. If you have bone, spine and joint problems, one of the diagnostic tests that our specialists may recommend is the positron emission tomography (PET) scan. An advanced medical imaging examination, PET scan is mainly used to find and monitor various conditions like bone and joint diseases.

    At Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, our medical team will assist you at each step of the diagnostic procedure. Take your first step towards healing and recovery by making an enquiry or appointment with us.


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