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Positron emission tomography (PET) and computerized tomography (CT) are both state-of-the-art imaging tools. A PET scan looks at biologic activity, such as how your cells are utilizing nutrients like sugar and oxygen. A CT scan provides a detailed picture of the body’s internal anatomy and can detect abnormal growths, injuries, and changes in the size or structure of internal organs. The PET/CT exam combines the strengths of these two well-established imaging technologies into a single scan, showing the body’s biologic activity and the anatomic structure.

The PET/CT exam is used in:

  • Cancer detection
  • Neurology, to detect Alzheimer's disease
  • Cardiology, to assess myocardial viability

Benefits of a PET/CT scan

A PET scan detects changes in cellular function. Since these changes take place before physical changes occur, a PET/CT exam can help your physician make an earlier diagnosis. For you, this can mean faster initiation of the best possible treatment while avoiding more invasive exams or exploratory surgery.

Because the PET and CT images are acquired nearly simultaneously, the exam can take less time than having separate imaging procedures, and the results are more precise.  

What happens during a PET/CT exam?

Prior to the exam, you will receive an injection of a glucose-based radiopharmaceutical. For most studies, you will need to wait 60–90 minutes for the radiopharmaceutical to distribute itself in your body.

The exam may take 15-60 minutes, depending on what scans your doctor has ordered. During the exam, you will lie on a comfortable table that moves slowly through a ring-like scanner. As the table moves slowly through the scanner, many sets of PET and CT images are produced, and the computer assembles them into a 3-D image of your body.

You should not experience any discomfort or side effects. The radiation you will receive from the PET/CT scan is about the same as a couple of X-rays. The radiopharmaceutical does not remain in your system long; drinking plenty of fluids afterward will help to flush it out of your system.

Preparing for a PET/CT exam

Please follow these instructions for your PET/CT exam:

  • Do not eat or drink anything other than water for 6 hours before your exam because it could interfere with the results; don’t even chew gum.
  • Medication can be taken as usual, except medication that needs to be taken with food.
  • Follow a high-protein, low-carb, low sugar diet 24 hours in advance.
  • If you are diabetic, let us know ahead of time so we can work with your physician to determine the safest possible way for you to prepare for your exam.*

*Note to patients with diabetes: Your glucose should be below 200 mg/dL for the exam to be accurate. In the event you are having difficulties regulating your blood sugar, please give your physician a call for suggestions on better control.

PET/CT exams are available at the Orlando Health Imaging Centers - Lake Mary, 392 Rinehart Rd., Lake Mary, FL 32746 (located in the Orlando Health Medical Pavilion - Lake Mary). To schedule an appointment, with a physician’s order, please call (407) 331-9355.