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Positron Emissions Tomography (PET/CT)

What is a PET/CT scan?

A PET/CT scan uses a specialized radioactive material (tracer) to make diagnostic images of the body. It involves two scans: a PET scan (shows how certain tissues/organs are functioning) and a CT scan (shows additional anatomy). 

Preparing for a PET/CT Scan - the day before the scan

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water throughout the day (unless instructed otherwise).
  • Do not take part in strenuous activity 24 hours before the test (i.e. exercise, heavy yard work/housework).
  • Follow specific instructions given by the department regarding your medications.
  • You may be provided with a special diet to follow the day before your scan.
  • Notify the department if there is a chance you are pregnant or breastfeeding for special instruction.

Preparing for a PET/CT Scan - the day of the scan

  • Follow the department's instruction for when you must start to fast. After that time, you may drink unflavoured water; however, you are NOT allowed juice, coffee, tea, gum, candy, flavored water, artificial sweeteners, cough drops.
  • Drink 2 to 3 glasses unflavoured water before your appointment time unless instructed otherwise. 
  • Take medications with water at breakfast. If diabetic, follow instructions given by the department.
  • Bring your medications to the department with you. If diabetic, bring your glucose meter and other diabetic supplies.

Scan Day

  • Please arrive on time at the Nuclear Medicine Department for your appointment. If you arrive late, you may need to be rebooked.

How long will a PET/CT scan take?

  • Plan to be at the hospital for at least 3 to 5 hours.
  • If you have had issues with claustrophobia during CTs or Magnetic resonance imaging tests (MRIs) in the past, you may want to bring a relaxation medication prescribed by your health care provider (we will tell you exactly what time to take it) and ensure you have a driver.

Risks or Complications

  • Exposure to radiation from the radioactive tracer and the CT.
  • Reactions to radioactive material are not common.

After your procedure

  • Reactions to the radioactive tracer are extremely rare.
  • If possible, after your test, avoid close contact with pregnant women and infants under 1 year old until midnight.
  • If you will be crossing an international border after your scan (i.e. USA), please inform the technologist. You will be given a letter identifying that you have received a dose of a radioactive material. Border crossings detection systems may pick up the residual radioactivity in your body up to a few months after your procedure.
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