A PET/CT is a scan that shows both the metabolic function of an organ or tissue as well as its structure in a 3D image. This makes detecting even the smallest lesion a lot easier for our Nuclear Medicine Specialist.
PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography. It uses a small amount of radioactive material, known as a tracer which is injected into your body and is absorbed into your organs and tissues. CT is a type of X-ray.
The combination of the two scans has been proven to be extremely sensitive in detecting the early stages of disease and can detect abnormalities even in the absence of structural change. Small tumours can be found even if they are undetectable by other imaging procedures or CT alone. This has a major impact on choosing the best treatment for patients. PET/CT information can be used to determine what combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy is most likely to be successful in managing a patient’s cancer. PET/CT can also help to monitor the effectiveness of therapy and assist in planning for surgery and radiotherapy.
How do I prepare?
Correct preparation for a PET/CT is very important to improve the accuracy of the test. Preparation varies between scans and even with the time of your scan. A detailed preparation sheet will be given to you when you make your appointment.
- The tracers used in PET have a shelf life of only a few hours, so it’s important you follow the preparation instructions. If poor preparation forces your appointment to be rescheduled, the tracer ordered for your appointment will expire and the tracer is expensive.
- Any cancellations need to be made at least 24 hours before your appointment
- Dress comfortably and warm for your scan, avoid wearing metal and jewellery
- Do not bring pregnant women or children to your appointment
- Bring your Medicare, Veterans Affairs, Concession or Pension cards to your appointment
- Please bring previous imaging CDs (films are not required), these will be returned to you after your scan is finished
- From start to finish a PET/CT takes around 3 hours
What happens during my examination?
After you arrive at reception, a technologist will explain the procedure to you and address any questions you may have. They will complete a questionnaire regarding your health. Please be mindful that some patients take longer than others to get settled and your appointment time may vary.
During the uptake period you will be asked to wait in a private uptake room, you may watch a TV program or relax. If you have any metal on your clothing you may be asked to change into a gown. A Technologists will place an IV cannula into your arm then check your blood sugar level, the PET tracer will be administered through the IV cannula. After approximately 60-90minutes, you will be taken through to the PET/CT scanner.
The PET/CT looks like a doughnut (known technically as a gantry), with a bed passing through the middle. You will be asked to lie on the bed with your arms stretched above your head. You must lie still on the scanning table which moves through the scanner.
The PET part of the scan detects the radiation released from the tracer which has now been taken up throughout your body.
The CT part images your anatomy and alterations in its structure such as tumour growth and other changes related to disease.
The PET and CT images are then combined and used together to diagnose, plan or measure treatment outcomes.
The scan will take between 20 and 45 minutes depending on the reason for your study.
Following your scan, you will be offered something to eat and be encouraged to stay well hydrated and use the bathroom as required. You can leave soon after the PET procedure has finished. If any CT contrast has been administered, we will monitor you for 10-30mins then remove your IV line.
The radioactive tracer remains in your system for a short time following your scan, for this reason, we suggest you limit the time you spend near children and pregnant women for a few hours afterwards. You may recommence eating and drinking following your scan. If you have any concern please call the PET/CT Centre.
What if I am claustrophobic?
If you are claustrophobic, please call prior to your scan, to discuss sedation options. If sedation is required you will need someone to bring you to your appointment and drive you home.
Are there any risks or will I feel differently after my scan?
A PET scan is considered a safe procedure. The injected radioactive tracer administered is a small amount and has a very short lifespan and is removed quickly from the body. We do not expect you to have any side effects, you should not feel any different after your scan.
After your examination
The results of your PET/CT will be sent directly to your referring Doctor. Please ensure you book a timely follow-up appointment to discuss your results with them.
We Bulk Bill Medicare-eligible PET/CT scans, however, some PET scans are not funded by Medicare and any out of pocket cost will be discussed with you at the time of booking.
Technology and team
Epworth has the latest PETCT equipment, with the recent installation of a Siemens Biograph mCT Flow 64 at EMI Freemasons.
We offer a number of different types of PET/CT scans, including:
- F18-FDG – Used to diagnose, stage and re-stage a wide range of oncology processes. This is the most common type of PET/CT scan
- F18-FDG (brain scan)– Neurological assessment for epilepsy and neurocognitive disorders
- F18-PSMA – Used to diagnose, stage and re-stage prostate cancer
- Ga68-DOTATATE – Used to diagnose, stage and re-stage varies neuroendocrine tumours
Your PET/CT will be performed by a Nuclear Medicine Technician under the supervision of a Nuclear Medicine Specialist doctor.
The images our technical staff acquire are reviewed by a specialist who will report on the findings. Epworth Medical Imaging has a wide range of medical imaging specialist doctors. Often PET/CT cases are discussed collectively to offer the most thorough clinical analysis.