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What is a PET scan?

A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan is a three dimensional diagnostic imaging procedure used to image the function of our internal organs and skeleton. PET scans can also be combined with CT scans and MRIs to produce more detailed results.

A PET scan involves the injection of a small amount of radioisotopes or radiopharmaceuticals known as tracers, these are designed to target and highlight a specific area/organ of the body. Because PET scans the functions of the body, it can also be used to assess the response to treatment.

While PET studies do use radiation; the dose is extremely low and rapidly excreted from the body.

What part of the anatomy is examined during a PET scan?

PET scans can be used to examine the soft tissues and internal organs of the whole body.

What conditions can be diagnosed by a PET scan?

  • Some cancers
  • Conditions of the nervous system (Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, etc.)
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain disorders
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Issues with blood flow
  • Cardiac viability


What are the risks of a PET scan?

A PET scan is a low risk procedure. Patients who undergo PET procedures are exposed to a small dose of radiation, following the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle. Administration of radiation to patients is highly regulated and exposure is well within the published guidelines from public health authorities. Your doctor will have taken into consideration the benefit of having this procedure and the radiation exposure from these procedures before requesting any PET scan.

Side effects or allergic reactions are extremely rare as the radioactive tracers are usually based on water and not iodine like X-ray contrast. Patients can eat, drink, and drive a car after having a PET scan, and will not feel sick or dizzy.

Although the tracer contains a low dose of radiation, it may pose a risk to patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Please notify our staff if there is any chance of pregnancy before the procedure begins. Patients are advised to avoid contact with anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding or very young children for a few hours after the procedure.

Preparation for the PET scan

You will need to fast for 6 hours before the test but you can drink plain water.

Diabetic patients require specific preparation depending on their type of diabetes. Please notify our friendly staff at the time of booking if you are diabetic.

What should a patient tell the Technologist before a PET scan?

  • Are pregnant or suspect that may be pregnant
  • Breastfeeding
  • Suffer from diabetes
  • Take any regular medications or supplements
  • Are claustrophobic
  • Have had any previous PET scan

What do you need to bring for the PET scan?

Please bring your referral, any previous scans or x-rays to the procedure, along with a list of medications you’re currently taking.

Non-english speaking patients are welcome to bring a suitable relative/friend who can interpret for them.

What should you wear for the PET scan?

Please wear comfortable clothing that has no metal zippers, buttons or clips. Please remove all jewellery prior to your appointment.

How long will the PET scan take?

The total procedure takes 2 hours.

Where can you get a PET scan?

St Vincent’s Private Hospital Northside
627 Rode Rd Chermside
Ph: 3256 4011

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