How Does a PET Scan Lung, Heart or on Any Other Body Part Work – Understanding the Basics

Positron Emission Tomography or PET is a non-invasive test that creates a nuclear image of any body part such as the lung or heart. To do so, a radioactive tracer also known as radionuclides are injected in the blood. Once the tracer mixes with the blood, it is taken up the muscles and into the organ like the heart. The scan determines if the heart is healthy or not by showing the flow of blood. For example, narrowed arteries or dead cells from a previous heart attack can be diagnosed using a PET scan.

The Basic Workings of A PET Scan

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

  1. A tracer is injected to the bloodstream. It is an organic compound found in bodies tagged with a minute amount of radioactive material. Generally, glucose, ammonia or water is used.
  2. Once inside the body, the tracer generates gamma energy rays.
  3. The beams are picked up by a detector that circles the body and then it sends to a computer. The system converts the signals into clear pictures.
  4. The complete image is made by putting together pictures of thin slices of the heart. Each slice is photographed from different directions and angles to produce a holistic and 3-D image.

A healthcare practitioner can determine the functioning of the heart using the picture. If the muscles are strong, the tracer is taken up excellently. On the other hand, if the heart is no longer viable or has dead cells, the tracer is not taken up. On the PET scan, the level of tracer absorption is seen as different colours or brightness gradation.

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 operations will be able to restore proper blood flow to the heart.

The Procedure of a PET Scan

A pet MRI scan can be done at a hospital or a diagnostic lab. It is conducted by a nuclear medicine technician and a doctor using a PET machine. First electrodes or small metal disks are placed on the legs, arms, and chest of the patient. The electrodes are then attached to a device using wires. These are meant to track and record the heart rate of the patient called electrocardiogram. The ECG also indicates when the scan should be done.

The next step is to create a baseline image of the organ. This is done without the addition of the tracer and takes about half an hour. Once the baseline is scanned, the injection of the tracer through an intravenous line which is taped to the arm of the person takes place. After the tracer is added, the patient lies flat on a table which slides into the scanning device that has an appearance similar to a massive doughnut.

The scan begins when the detectors pick up the signals given off by the tracer. The data is converted into a digital picture using a computer. A single image is, in reality, an accumulation of many photographs taken from all angles and in slices. The entire procedure can take anywhere between one to three hours. It is vital to be completely still during the whole scanning process, or the images come out blurred.

Steps to Take After PET Scanning

Because the scan is a non-invasive process, the person can return to regular activity right after it is finished. It is recommended to drink a lot of fluids for the next day. Water allows for all radioactive material, i.e., the tracer to be flushed from the body. Also, make an appointment with the concerned doctor to do a follow-up on the test results.

The Risks Connected With PET

Commonly, PET scanning is exceptionally safe for any individual. The amount of radiation the body is exposed to is very small. Therefore, the kidneys are able to remove it from the body in at most 24 hours. The test is not recommended if the person is:

  1. Pregnant
  2. Nursing mother

In both cases, the scanning may harm the child.

The Last Word

Any person who wishes to know more about PET scanning before the procedure should consult a doctor. A few questions that can help clarify all doubts are:

  • How is this test better than any other one?
  • What are the steps that should be taken in preparation for the scanning?
  • Will there be a need for additional tests after the scan?
  • When can the results be expected?

A PET scan is a painless procedure, but the anxiety that comes with any health test is always present. It is why to get the scan done at a reputable hospital or diagnostic lab is essential. The technicians and other employees can turn the experience even more comfortable when they are adequately trained. At Anderson Diagnostics, one of the renowned scan centres in Chennai, we take the utmost care of our patients.

We not only offer state of the are PET devices that provide accurate imaging but also empathy and excellent bedside manner. When you get a scan done with us, be assured that your health is our priority. From oncology to neurology to cardiology, we conduct PET scans for a variety of fields. Give us a call or swing by our site to know more about the technology we utilise for PET Scans.

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