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


PET is a non-invasive procedure that produces a nuclear image of any organ, including the heart and lungs. A radioactive tracer, also referred to as a radionuclide, is injected into the blood to achieve this. The tracer enters the organ like the heart after mixing with the blood and traveling up the muscles. By displaying the blood flow, the scan determines whether the heart is healthy or not. 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 that can be found in people who 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 transmits them to a computer. Signals are transformed by the system into sharp images.
  4. Images of the heart’s thin slices are pieced together to create the final image. To create a comprehensive, three-dimensional image, each slice is photographed from various angles and directions.

The image can be used by a medical professional to assess the heart’s functionality. The tracer is excellently taken up if the muscles are strong. The tracer is not absorbed, however, if the heart is no longer alive or contains dead cells. The degree of tracer absorption is displayed 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. Using a PET scanner, it is carried out by a physician and a nuclear medicine technician. On the patient’s legs, arms, and chest, small metal disks or electrodes are first applied. The electrodes are then wired to the apparatus. Known as electrocardiograms, these are used to monitor and log the patient’s heart rate. When the scan should be performed is also indicated by the ECG.

The next step is to make an organ baseline image. It takes about 30 minutes to complete this without the tracer. After the baseline is scanned, the tracer is injected through an intravenous line that is taped to the subject’s arm. The patient is placed flat on a table, with the tracer added, and then slid into the scanning apparatus, which resembles a huge doughnut.

When the detectors detect the signals emitted by the tracer, the scan starts. Using a computer, the data is transformed into a digital image. In reality, an image is made up of a number of photos taken in various angles and slices. It can take anywhere from one to three hours to complete the process. It is essential to maintain complete stillness throughout the entire scanning process to avoid blurry images.

Steps to Take After PET Scanning

The scan is non-invasive, so the individual can immediately resume normal activity after it is over. It is advised to consume a lot of liquids the night before. Any radioactive substance, including, the tracer to be flushed from the body. Additionally, schedule a visit with the concerned physician to follow up on the test results.

The Risks Connected With PET

PET scanning is typically extremely safe for anyone to undergo. The body receives very little radiation exposure. Since it can only be eliminated from the body for a maximum of 24 hours by the kidneys. The test is not recommended if the person is:

  1. Pregnant
  2. Nursing mother

The scanning could endanger the child in either scenario.

The Last Word

Before 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 does this test differ from others?
  • What should be done in order to get ready for the scanning?
  • After the scan, will more testing be required?
  • When can the results be anticipated?

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