A Positron Emission Tomography – PET – scan sounds scary, but don’t worry. The nuclear medicine procedure isn’t dangerous in the least.
A PET scan delivers images of the body’s biological functions and is apt to detect diseases more quickly than other imaging procedures such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT scan (computed tomography).
Because they require an injection of a radioactive tracer, PET scans often are the cause of apprehension. However, the radioactive tracer is actually compounded with sugar and a very low dose radioisotope. So if there is, in fact, radioactive materials in use, do PET scans have any side effects to worry about?
A PET scan is highly technological and to some, the procedure may sound a bit like science fiction or even a somewhat Frankenstein-esque. However, a PET scan is totally safe and there are no potential side effects that follow it.
PET scans work like this: the radioactive compound that is injected into the body requires time to travel to the area that is to be imaged. The patient rests quietly for 40-45 minutes while the compound travels through the bloodstream to finally settle into the areas where images will be taken. Signals emitted from the tracer are transformed into images.
- Pregnant women shouldn’t have a PET scan, since radiation is dangerous to developing babies. Don’t have a PET scan if you think you might be pregnant.
- Nursing Mothers. Additionally, nursing mothers should pump and store breast milk before the test; they will not be able to resume breastfeeding for 24 hours following the test.
- People who are allergic to iodine or sugar substitutes, such as aspartame and saccharin, should avoid PET scans or at least alert their physician that they’re allergic. The trace compound is typically made with iodine and glucose, but an alternate compound of diluted barium could replace the iodine for people who are allergic.
- Bruising and Swelling. The injection of the trace compound will cause a slight stinging sensation that won’t last. However, it is possible that bruising and swelling may occur at the site.
Again, there aren’t any real risks associated with PET scans. However, as with any procedure patients must follow pre-orders for their test. Patients will fast six hours prior to the test, however, the day before the appointment the patient will be asked to stick to a low-carbohydrate, no-sugar and no-caffeine diet.
The test could affect blood sugar levels. Diabetics should consult with their doctors concerning medications before taking a PET scan.
Bottom Line: most patients are unaware that they are exposed to radiation every day, just by living life and going through their daily routines. In a year’s time, most of us will receive the equivalent of five, possibly six X-rays; about the same amount of radiation received during a PET scan.
At Independent Imaging we’re accustomed to allaying patient’s fears and we provide special care to patients with pre-existing conditions like diabetes or those with allergies. No stone’s left unturned where your treatment is concerned. Your complete health history is taken into consideration before any scan or test is performed.
Independent Imaging’s three imaging centers feature state-of-the-art imaging equipment and are fully accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR). With four locations in Palm Beach County, Florida – Wellington, Belle Glade, Lake Worth, and Royal Palm Beach – Independent Imaging is committed to providing results quickly and accurately, while easing each patient’s tensions through compassionate care.
Call us at (561) 795-5558 for same-day appointments, or inquire about transportation arrangements. For non-urgent needs, use our online appointment request form. Tell us which location you prefer, and someone from our office will call you to confirm your request.