Understanding the Basics of How a PET Scan of the Lung, Heart, or Any Other Body Part Works


A nuclear image of any organ, including the heart or lung, can be produced by a non-invasive test called positron emission tomography, or PET. A radioactive tracer, also referred to as a radionuclide, is injected into the blood to accomplish this. The tracer is carried up the muscles and into the organ, such as the heart, after it has mixed with the blood. By displaying the blood flow, the scan determines whether or not the heart is healthy. A PET scan can be used to identify, for instance, clogged arteries or dead heart attack cells.

The Basic Workings of A PET Scan

To conduct a PET CT test, the following steps occur:

  1. The bloodstream is given a tracer injection. It is an organic substance found in bodies that have been lightly radioactively marked. In most cases, water, glucose, or ammonia are used.
  2. The tracer produces gamma energy rays once it is inside the body.
  3. A detector that circles the body picks up the beams and sends the information to a computer. The system transforms the signals into sharp images.
  4. In order to create the full image, thin heart slices were photographed and assembled. For a comprehensive, three-dimensional image, various directions and angles are used to photograph each slice.

The image can be used by a healthcare professional to assess the heart’s functionality. Strong muscles result in excellent tracer uptake. The tracer is not absorbed, however, if the heart is no longer alive or contains dead cells. The degree of tracer absorption is visible on the PET scan as a range of colors or brightness.

The Necessity of PET Testing

As of present, PET scans are one of the most precise procedures that can be utilised to detect:

  1. Coronary artery disease
  2. Low blood flow
  3. Injured tissue
  4. Dead tissue

Depending upon what the scan shows, a doctor can recommend a cardiac procedure like:

  1. percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)
  2. coronary artery bypass surgery
  3. The surgeries will be able to get the heart’s blood flow back to normal.

The Procedure of a PET Scan

In a hospital or diagnostic lab, a pet can undergo an MRI scan. With the aid of a PET scanner, a doctor and nuclear medicine technician conduct the procedure. Initially, the patient’s legs, arms, and chest are covered with electrodes or tiny metal disks. The electrodes are then wired to the apparatus. Known as electrocardiograms, these are used to monitor and log the patient’s heart rate. A scan should be performed according to the ECG as well.

The next step is to create a baseline image of the organ. Without the tracer, this process takes about 30 minutes to complete. After the baseline is scanned, the tracer is injected through an intravenous line that is taped to the subject’s arm. The patient lies flat on a table that slides into the scanning device, which resembles a huge doughnut, after the tracer is added.

The scan starts as soon as the detectors detect the tracer’s signals. A computer transforms the data into a digital image. In reality, an image is made up of a number of photos taken in various angles and slices. The entire process can take one to three hours. To avoid blurry images, you must remain completely motionless throughout the entire scanning process.

Steps to Take After PET Scanning

The scan is non-invasive, so the patient can resume normal activity right away. Drinking lots of liquids the night before is advised. All radioactive substances, i.e., the tracer to be flushed from the body. As a follow-up to the test results, schedule a consultation with the concerned physician.

The Risks Connected With PET

In general, PET scanning is extremely safe for everyone. The body is only slightly exposed to radiation. The kidneys can therefore eliminate it from the body in no more than 24 hours. The test is not recommended if the person is:

  1. Pregnant
  2. Nursing mother

The scanning could endanger the child in either situation.

The Last Word

Before having the procedure, anyone who is interested in learning more about PET scanning should speak with a physician. A few questions that can help clarify all doubts are:

  • How is this test superior to others?
  • What actions ought to be taken in order to get ready for the scan?
  • After the scan, will more tests be required?
  • When can we anticipate the outcomes?

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