A PET (positron emission tomography) scan is a type of painless imaging test. It uses a tracer (radioactive drug) to show how your tissues and organs are working. PET scans differ from other imaging exams, such as X-rays, that only show the structure of tissues and organs.
If you need a PET scan in Las Vegas or Henderson, NV, wait at home, not in the emergency room. Use Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican hospitals' online waiting service to select your estimated arrival time.
Why Do I Need a PET Scan?
Doctors order PET scans to diagnose or evaluate diseases including:
Because PET scans show chemical changes at the cellular level, they can often detect disease earlier than other imaging techniques.
What to Expect During a PET Scan Procedure
After you change into a gown, you’ll take the tracer by having an injection into a vein, swallowing it, or inhaling it. It can take up to 60 minutes for your body to absorb the tracer. There is a small chance of an allergic reaction to the tracer.
The PET scanner looks like a large doughnut turned on its side. You will lie on a table that slides into the machine. You’ll need to lie still during the test. The scan itself is painless. The time it takes varies, but it can take up to 60 minutes.
Your doctor may order a CT (computed tomography) scan — a special type of X-ray — at the same time as the PET scan. The CT scan gives highly detailed information about the structure of the area being scanned. Your diagnosis is based on information generated from both studies. Many of today’s machines are combination PET/CT scanners so you only go through one scan.
Your doctor will tell you about any special preparation you need to do. This may include not eating anything for several hours beforehand and avoiding strenuous exercise for a couple of days. These things can interfere with how your body absorbs the tracer.
Your risk is minimal because the amount of radiation used is small. However, it can expose your child to radiation if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.
Understanding Your PET Scan Results
The tracer collects in areas of your body with high chemical activity and shows up as bright spots on the PET scan. These are areas that may indicate disease.
Abnormal results may reveal any of the following:
- Change in shape, size, function, or position of organs
- Poor blood flow to the heart
- Spread or presence of cancer
- Presence of a brain tumor or change in brain function
Normal results mean the tracer did not collect abnormally anywhere.
The results can help your doctor decide if treatment you are receiving is working properly or if it needs adjustment.
Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican hospitals offers emergency services, including PET scan, in Las Vegas and Henderson, NV.