Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan


What Is a PET Scan?

This test helps your doctor better understand how well your blood supply is reaching your heart, and helps evaluate the metabolic activity (blood flow, oxygen use) of your heart. We often use a PET scan to identify:

The PET Procedure

The scan involves injecting a small amount of a radioactive chemical (radiotracer) into your arm to create images. The small amount of radioactive material injected into your body will not harm your body or organs, and causes minimal side effects.

What PET Means

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a scientific term for the type of radioactive tracer that is inserted into your arm. Tomography refers to a method of scanning that involves the camera imaging around you.

This means the scanner moves and takes pictures around you. A computer then captures the pictures so your doctor can review them.

World-Class Care

Our Comprehensive PET Scan Testing

When you arrive at an Aurora Health Care location for your PET scan, you can expect:

  • Caring diagnostic professionals: Our experienced technicians and nurses work closely with your doctor to perform your PET scan. They check your comfort level and explain testing procedures throughout the process.
  • A minimally invasive testing approach: The PET scan is an external-body test (noninvasive) with few side effects. Except for the IV we use to inject the radioactive material into your body, a PET scan is noninvasive. You won’t need surgery or a catheter.
  • Convenient appointments: Aurora imaging staff members try to schedule your test as quickly as possible, at an Aurora facility convenient for you.

What to Expect

What Happens During a PET Scan?

Plan for your visit to the imaging center to take about three hours. During the procedure:

  1. The Aurora technologist starts by placing an intravenous (IV) line into your arm.
  2. The technologist injects into your arm a small amount of radioactive tracer called fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) that will help us take detailed pictures of your body. You will not feel the tracer or its movement.
  3. After a waiting period, we begin the scan. The scanning process typically takes 30 to 90 minutes.

After Your Test

You will probably be thirsty, so drink plenty of liquids after your scan. Take any necessary medications, particularly if you withheld them before the test.

We know you’ll want to get your PET scan results as quickly as possible. We generally send test results to your Aurora doctor the following working day. Your doctor will get in touch with you to share the results.

Preparing for Your Test

Please be on time for your PET scan. This is crucial because the radioactive tracer we insert in your arm is made specifically for you and has a very short expiration period.

How to Get Ready for Your PET Scan

Wear loose, comfortable clothing (avoid clothing with metal buttons or zippers or underwire bras) for your scan. Otherwise, you will have to change into a hospital gown. Other preparation tips:

General Instructions

Our department may call you with specific instructions. However, in general:

  • Avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours (running, weight training) before the scan.
  • If you have taken oral barium during a recent exam, check with your doctor about clearance time.
  • If you cannot lie still for 25 minutes or are claustrophobic, tell your doctor in advance. He/she may prescribe a muscle relaxant to help you relax during the scan.
  • Let us know right away if you feel feverish before or during the scan.

Eating & Drinking

To help us get the most accurate test results, on the day of the exam, please avoid:

  • Chewing gum
  • Breads, pastas, cereals, grains, fruits, candy and other high-carbohydrate/sugar foods and drinks
  • All food or drinks except water for 4 hours before your exam
  • Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) and gastric tube feedings for 6 hours before exam

Medication Issues

On the day of the exam:

  • You may take prescription medications with water.
  • If you are not supposed to take your medications on an empty stomach, take them 4 hours prior to your exam or wait and take them later.

If You Are Diabetic:

  • Notify us in advance. We will work with your doctor on the safest way for you to prepare for your PET scan.
  • Your glucose levels must be 160 or higher to undergo the test.
  • Do not take insulin injections within 4 hours of the test.


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