Meet with a registered nurse to receive a diabetes screening that includes a glucose blood test, BMI (body mass index) and weight management information.
Find a doctor at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center or Johns Hopkins Community Physicians. Positron emission tomography (PET or PET scan) is a specialized radiology procedure used to examine various body tissues to identify certain conditions.
PET is most often used by oncologists (doctors specializing in cancer treatment), neurologists and neurosurgeons (doctors specializing in treatment and surgery of the brain and nervous system), and cardiologists (doctors specializing in the treatment of the heart). PET is also being used in conjunction with other diagnostic tests such as computed tomography (CAT scan) to provide more definitive information about malignant (cancerous) tumors and other lesions.
PET works by using a scanning device (a machine with a large hole at its center) to detect positrons (subatomic particles) emitted by a radionuclide in the organ or tissue being examined. The radiotracers used in PET scans are made by attaching a radioactive atom to chemical substances that are used naturally by the particular organ or tissue during its metabolic process. For example, in PET scans of the brain, a radioactive atom is applied to glucose (blood sugar) to create a radionuclide called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), because the brain uses glucose for its metabolism. Other related procedures that may be performed include computed tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The amount of the radionuclide injected into your vein for the procedure is small enough that there is no need for precautions against radioactive exposure. For some patients, having to lie still on the scanning table for the length of the procedure may cause some discomfort or pain. Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, contrast dyes, iodine, or latex should notify their doctor. If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your health care provider due to the risk of injury to the fetus from a PET scan.
PRECAUTIONS: If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, please check with your doctor before scheduling the exam. BREASTFEEDING: If you are breastfeeding, we recommend that you do not breastfeed your child for 24 hours following the injection of the radiotracer. Premedication is ordered by your physician and is usually taken 24, 12 and two hours prior to the scan. ALLERGY: Please inform the access center representative when you schedule your scan if you have had an allergic reaction to any contrast dye in the past.
DIABETICS: If you are having your PET scan with Johns Hopkins radiology, you will be given specific instructions before your examination.


You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that may interfere with the scan. One or two intravenous (IV) lines will be started in the hand or arm for injection of the radiotracer. Certain types of scans of the abdomen or pelvis may require that a urinary catheter be inserted into the bladder to drain urine during the procedure.
In some cases, an initial scan may be performed prior to the injection of the radiotracer, depending on the type of study being done.
After the radiotracer has been absorbed for the appropriate length of time, the scan will begin. While the PET scan itself causes no pain, having to lie still for the length of the procedure might cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure, such as surgery. You should move slowly when getting up from the scanner table to avoid any dizziness or lightheadedness from lying flat for the length of the procedure. Your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation. Whether you're crossing the country or the globe, we make it easy to access world-class care at Johns Hopkins.
This means that a small amount of a radioactive substance, called a radionuclide (radiopharmaceutical or radiotracer), is used to perform the procedure.
However, as advances in PET technologies continue, this procedure is beginning to be used more widely in other areas. The combination of PET and CT shows particular promise in the diagnosis and treatment of many types of cancer. If blood flow and perfusion of an organ or tissue is of interest, the radionuclide may be a type of radioactive oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, or gallium. If you are lactating, or breastfeeding, you should notify your health care provider due to the risk of contaminating breast milk with the radionuclide. The more contrast you are able to drink, the better the images are for the radiologist to visualize your digestive tract.
If your doctor requested additional CT scan with IV contrast and you have a history of allergic reaction to iodinated contrast, then you must be pre-medicated before the IV contrast portion of the scan. It is also possible that some hospital inpatients may undergo a PET examination for certain conditions.


The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain. While PET is most commonly used in the fields of neurology, oncology, and cardiology, applications in other fields are currently being studied.
Specifically, PET studies evaluate the metabolism of a particular organ or tissue, so that information about the physiology (functionality) and anatomy (structure) of the organ or tissue is evaluated, as well as its biochemical properties. However, a new technology called gamma camera systems (devices used to scan patients who have been injected with small amounts of radionuclides and currently in use with other nuclear medicine procedures) is now being adapted for use in PET scan procedures. Thus, PET may detect biochemical changes in an organ or tissue that can identify the onset of a disease process before anatomical changes related to the disease can be seen with other imaging processes, such as computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The gamma camera system can complete a scan more quickly, and at less cost, than a traditional PET scan. Gamma rays are created during the emission of positrons, and the scanner then detects the gamma rays. If you have a colostomy bag, you are advised to bring an extra bag and possibly a chance of clothes. You are encouraged to drink plain water (no flavors) as much as you like until the time of the scan, unless specified by your other providers. You will not be hazardous to other people, as the radiotracer emits less radiation than a standard X-ray.
A computer analyzes the gamma rays and uses the information to create an image map of the organ or tissue being studied.
There may be different food and drink recommendations from your physician if you also have upcoming surgery. The amount of the radionuclide collected in the tissue affects how brightly the tissue appears on the image, and indicates the level of organ or tissue function.



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