What Is a Pet Scan?


Technology has evolved over the years, allowing medical professionals to get in-depth looks at our bodies and how they function. One test that has become an essential part of the diagnostic plan for many diseases is the PET scan. A PET scan can detect problems of the brain such as memory disorders, seizures and tumors. It is also highly useful in detection and diagnosis of certain cancers.

About a PET Scan

A PET scan is a test that allows your doctor to get in-depth views of how your body is functioning. It is similar to a CAT scan and an MRI, but much more detailed. You will lie on a table that slides into a large, tubular tunnel. The use of a radioactive dye is necessary in order to see the tissues and organs of your body in detail. The dye is injected into your vein prior to the test.


Once the dye is absorbed into your tissues and organs, the scanner scans your body for approximately 45 minutes. You'll be asked to lie perfectly still since any movement can cause the test to misread the images. The radioactive substance gives off an energy that is computed into three dimensional images on the screen for the physician to read. These images allow the physician to read vital information about your tissues and organs.


The benefits of a PET scan are that many diseases, and changes in the process of a disease, can be detected. The radioactive dye enhances your organs to a degree that allows your doctor to see exactly what is happening with them. For instance, if changes with your cancer are happening, your doctor will know right away. PET scans are very useful tools for doctors, helping them decide on a course of treatment that is best suitable for your condition.


In preparation for the test, you will be asked not to eat or drink anywhere from 6 to 12 hours prior. You may be asked to not take certain medications beforehand as well. If you take any heart medication, your doctor will probably tell you to avoid any caffeinated drinks for at least 24 hours prior to the test, since caffeine affects the heart and can cause changes on your scan. You may also be asked to change into a hospital gown for the test.


The PET scan, though considered a fairly simple and non-invasive test, comes with several warnings. Your doctor should know about all your medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins or herbs. Although it is uncommon to have an allergic reaction to radioactive dye, it is possible. If you have ever had a reaction to a dye, tell your doctor. Also tell your doctor if you are diabetic. He will inform you of what you need to do regarding your insulin and food.

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