Positron Emission Tomography, or PET scans for short, have been commonly used in medical diagnostics for years. Even so, not everyone is familiar with the technology or its most common uses. If a doctor recommends this test, patients can rest assured it’s not a painful one and the information it can provide may, in fact, prove lifesaving.
When a PET scan is ordered, a patient will either undergo the procedure at a hospital or in an outpatient diagnostic facility. The process begins by injecting a patient with a radioactive tracer that is able to travel throughout the body and attach itself to the organs and tissues that need to be studied. The dose of radiation involved is very small, so there’s no reason for alarm. It is critical, however, because it enables the PET test to visualize any areas of concern.
Once the tracer has been given time to absorb into the body, all a patient needs to do is lie down on a table and relax. The table patients are asked to lie down on will then be moved into the scanner, which will then create three-dimensional images of what is going on inside the body. A doctor can then look at cross-sectional images to see organs from multiple angles and determine if there are problems present. Offering much more precision than an X-ray, this scan can help doctors more accurately diagnosis a variety of conditions.
PET technology is considered such an important diagnostic tool because it enables doctors to see inside the body without requiring them to perform more invasive procedures. It is commonly used to diagnose and/or stage cancer, but is also used to detect heart disease, neurological conditions, psychiatric concerns and other problems, such as stroke.
PET scans have played an important role in medical diagnostics for years. This relatively simple test enables more accurate diagnosis while minimizing impacts on patients. If a doctor recommends this test, there’s no cause for alarm. It is ordered to ensure physicians have access to the most accurate information to guide them in recommending care.