What is a Positron Emission Tomography – PET scan

What is a PET scan?

The imaging test, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan shows the metabolic and biochemical function of your organs and tissues.

The PET scan enables your doctor to look for problems within your body. A specific dye with radioactive tracers is used during the scan. The tracer is absorbed by certain organs and tissues, which allows your doctor to determine how well your organs and tissues are functioning.

Because some biological tissues and illnesses have a higher degree of chemical activity than others, the tracer will gather in areas of higher chemical activity. On the PET scan, these diseased regions will appear as bright spots.

The scan evaluates a variety of things, including blood flow, oxygen utilisation, and how your body utilises sugar.

Since a PET scan is normally performed as an outpatient treatment, you can resume your normal activities as soon as the test is through.

What does a PET scan check for?

To examine your blood flow, oxygen intake, or the metabolism of your organs and tissues, your doctor could prescribe a PET scan. PET scans provide your doctor with the clearest insight possible into complicated systemic disorders since they reveal issues at the cellular level.

Most frequently, PET scans are used to look for:

  • Cancer
  • Heart issues
  • Brain disease, such as issues with the central nervous system (CNS)


The metabolic rate of cancer cells can be greater than that of normal cells. Cancer cells frequently appear as bright spots on PET scans because of their high degree of chemical activity. Hence, PET scans are very helpful in identifying cancer.

Heart disease

Areas of the heart with reduced blood flow can be identified using PET imaging. This is so because cardiac tissue that is healthy tends to absorb more tracer than tissue that is diseased or has lower blood flow.

Your doctor can use this information to determine how to proceed with further treatment if needed.

Brain disorders

The brain’s primary fuel source is glucose. Tracers are attached to substances like glucose during PET scans. The PET scan can reveal which parts of the brain are consuming more glucose by detecting radioactive glucose.

A doctor can examine how the brain functions and look for any abnormalities by interpreting the scan.

The procedure of PET scan

A PET scan is a kind of nuclear medicine imaging procedure.

The PET scan requires you to lie flat on your back on a retractable table that slides into the scanner for the procedure to begin.

The PET scan is a 100% painless test but due to the enclosed nature of the PET scan machine, it can be slightly unsettling for those who are afraid of enclosed spaces.

If you are claustrophobic or uncomfortable in tight spaces, speak to the technician before the test.

A mild sedative can be administered to help you relax and conduct the PET scan test smoothly.

Your healthcare professional can view the pictures on a monitor.

How do I prepare for a PET scan?

  • Remove any metallic objects, such as keys, jewelery, belt, wallet, etc.
  • Bring your medical history along with any previous scans.
  • Get dietary advice from the doctor at least 2 days before the test.
  • As the PET scans alters the body’s blood sugar, hence diabetics need to consult with their doctor about possible risks and how to mitigate them.
  • Avoid caffeine for 24 hours before the test if you’re being tested for a heart problem.
  • A radioactive tracer is injected about 30 to 60 minutes before the test, post-which you’ll need to rest for the tracer to dissolve.

What are the risks and side effects ?

  • A PET scan shouldn’t be performed on pregnant women since radiation can harm an unborn child. If you are pregnant, avoid getting a PET scan.
  • Moms who are nursing shouldn’t opt for a PET scan. But in case they have to, they should pump and preserve breast milk before the test, since they won’t be able to resume breastfeeding for 24 hours after the test
  • A brief stinging sensation will be experienced after the trace ingredient injection, but it won’t remain. However, there is a chance that the area will bruise and swell.

Final thoughts

PET scans are just as helpful for determining a disease’s initial diagnosis as they are for monitoring the disease’s development. They are particularly useful in determining how well you are responding to cancer therapy when the tumours start to recede and enter remission.

PET can also be used to assess the harm done to the brain or heart after a stroke or heart attack. It can assist anticipate your long-term result and gives the healthcare professional a roadmap of functioning tissue (prognosis).

Furthermore, it’s vital to keep a check on your overall health as well for happy living by opting for regular health check-ups to stay on top of your health.

Book The Full Body Good Health Test Today!

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