7301 Medical Center Dr.
Suite 103
West Hills, CA 91307-1904

Phone: (818) 346-4411
Fax: (818) 346-1798
Frequently Asked Questions

PET/CT SCANS

WHAT IS PET?

A powerful, non-invasive, diagnostic tool, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) detects biochemical changes in body tissues. Virtually all diseases alter the body's metabolism. PET can provide diagnostic answers that cannot be obtained with other imaging techniques. For example, CT and MRI reveal structural changes in the body. But before such structural changes are visible, PET can often identify biochemical alterations caused by tumors and other diseases.


HOW DOES PET WORK?

Before undergoing a PET scan, patients receive an injection of a tracer, an imaging agent which the body easily absorbs and eliminates. Following the injection, the patient waits in a quiet room for approximately 45 minutes to allow the tracer to be processed by the body. The patient is then brought into the scanning room and lies on a table that slides slowly through the scanner. By detecting the tracer in the patient, the PET scanner can create a color-coded image of the body's chemical function.

PET scans typically take less than half an hour and expose patients to a safe level of radiation. Most patients can return to their normal activities immediately following the scan. Specially-trained radiologists read the PET scans and write up detailed reports explaining their findings. The referring physician then reviews the findings with the patient.


HOW DOES PET/CT TECHNOLOGY HELP?

Our state-of-the-art PET/CT machine allows the patient to receive a PET scan and a CT at the same time. The biochemical information acquired by the PET scan is superimposed on the detailed anatomic information from the CT, so that the location of a tumor can be precisely evaluated. The images from this "fused" scan often provide more reliable information than was possible with older technology, in which the PET and CT scans were performed at different times and their images were compared side by side.

PET/CT helps physicians to improve the accuracy of a diagnosis, create an individualized treatment plan, and closely monitor a patient's progress, by providing:
  • More detailed diagnostic information than other imaging techniques
  • Shorter time frame to reach a definitive diagnosis-resulting in fewer invasive diagnostic procedures and fewer unwarranted surgeries
  • Precise staging of disease, including early identification of tumor recurrences.

WHY DO I NEED PET?

Because changes in metabolism occur before anatomical changes are apparent, PET often reveals illnesses much earlier than conventional diagnostic procedures. This may eliminate the need for ineffective or unnecessary surgeries, treatments or other diagnostic tests. It will often significantly reduce medical costs, patient discomfort and potential complications.


COMMON USES OF PET

Oncology
  • Determine benign from malignant tumor in suspicious areas
  • Survey whole body for cancer that may have spread
  • Monitor success of therapy
  • Detect recurrent tumors
  • Assess tumor aggressiveness
Cardiology
  • Determine what heart tissue is still alive following a suspected heart attack
  • Predict success of angioplasty (balloon) or by-pass surgery
Neurology
  • Alzheimer's and other dementia
  • Epilepsy - determine the precise location for surgery
  • Parkinson's - diagnose movement disorders

ABOUT YOUR SCAN

A PET scan is completely painless, with no side effects. After fasting approximately four hours, you will receive an intravenous injection of a radioactive glucose and will rest quietly for approximately 45 minutes while the glucose is distributed throughout the body. You will then be asked to lie still on the scanner table for the duration of the test.

After the organ being studied processes the radioactive tracer and the scanner records the information, a radiologist with special training in PET interprets the images. Results are reported to your referring physician usually within 24 hours. Medicare covers PET scanning for many uses, including breast, lung, colorectal, esophageal, melanoma, lymphoma, thyroid and head and neck cancers, and Alzheimer's Disease. Additional indications may be covered on a case-by-case basis, but pre-authorization is required for all PET scans. Most private insurers cover PET scans as well. Check with your physician about your insurance coverage.

©2012; West Valley Imaging Center