A PET/CT scan is a combined test that involves a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and a computed tomography (CT) scan. A PET scan is a nuclear medicine test, which means it uses radioactive tracers. A CT scan uses X-rays to produce internal images of the body. If you have any questions or concerns about undergoing a PET/CT scan, a radiology specialist at Concord Imaging Center in San Antonio will be happy to discuss them with you.
Reasons for PET/CT Scans
Combined PET and CT scans are helpful for diagnosing a variety of medical problems, including cancer. This exam can aid in the initial diagnosis of cancer and in staging cancer, which refers to determining whether the cancer has spread. PET/CT scans can also help doctors evaluate how well cancer treatments are working and whether cancer has returned after treatment. Another common reason for undergoing a PET/CT scan is to evaluate the functioning of the heart. It may be used for assessing the damage inflicted by a heart attack and for planning cardiac surgeries.
Preparations for PET/CT Scans
The imaging center will give you directions to follow ahead of your appointment. You may be asked to avoid eating anything and drinking anything that contains calories for a few hours before the appointment. You can drink plain water. If you’re a diabetic, the radiologist may give you different instructions. Your radiologist will need to know if any of the following applies to you:
- You are pregnant or might be pregnant.
- You are breastfeeding.
- You have removable dental work or hearing aids.
- You’re taking any medications or supplements.
- You have any allergies, particularly to seafood, iodine, and contrast materials.
Steps of PET/CT Scans
When you arrive at the imaging center, you may be asked to change into a hospital gown before lying on an exam table. You’ll receive the radioactive tracer, which may be inhaled, swallowed, or given intravenously. It will take the tracer a while to travel around your body. You’ll be asked to lie quietly during this time. Then, you’ll be positioned in the scanner, where you’ll also need to remain still. It generally takes about 30 minutes to perform a PET and CT scan.
The terms “radiology technologists” and “ radiologists ” are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. If you visit an imaging center in San Antonio, you’ll likely meet a radiology technologist first. This person will get you ready for the exam ,adjust the equipment and perform most exams. Radiology technologists are also typically responsible for positioning patients and taking steps to minimize radiation exposure. Radiology technologists are required to complete certain educational and training requirements. They typically have an Associates degree.
Although radiology technologists perform important responsibilities within an imaging center, they cannot actually interpret or “read” the exam. This is the role of the radiologist. Radiologists are medical doctors who have completed four years of medical school after earning a college degree. They must also complete four years of radiology residency. All that education and training allows radiologists to safely and accurately interpret exams such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and nuclear medicine exams. Radiologists can alsoperform procedures such as biopsies and fluoroscopy exams like Upper GI series and barium enemas. . Since radiologists are medical doctors, they must maintain licensure in the state in which they practice.
X-rays are among the most well-known medical imaging exams. Other types of medical imaging exams use X-ray technology, such as CT scans, but standard bone X-rays most frequently come to mind when people hear this term. X-rays are often performed at hospitals, such as when a patient arrives at the ER with injuries, but some clinics lack on-site imaging capabilities and may refer their patients to an imaging center instead. A patient may also be referred to an imaging center near San Antonio for non-emergent X-rays .
X-rays can depict bones well, but not other structures.
X-rays are exceptionally accurate for depicting the details of the bone structure. However, they aren’t terribly useful for evaluating the soft tissues of the body, which include the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. This is why orthopedic specialists might request an MRI instead of a bone X-ray. An MRI allows a better examination of the various structures of the joints and spine. MRIs are also useful for detecting very tiny bone contusions that might not show up on X-rays.
Bone X-rays are helpful for more than diagnosing fractures.
Most people undergo multiple X-rays during the course of their lifetime. This technology is routinely used in dental offices, for instance, where it helps dentists find tooth decay. But in addition to its dental uses and its helpfulness in diagnosing bone fractures, X-rays are useful for other reasons. X-rays allow doctors to evaluate patients suspected of having arthritis, bone cancer, bone infections, and bone spurs. They are frequently used by orthopedic surgeons who are planning surgeries, such as spinal fusions and joint replacements.
X-rays are safe and painless.
Most medical procedures do carry certain risks, and X-rays are no exception. However, the risk associated with the radiation exposure is quite low, especially these days. That’s because state-of-the-art imaging centers use modern X-ray equipment that enables the radiologists to use the lowest possible dose of radiation for each X-ray. Furthermore, the part of the patient’s body that is not being examined is covered with a lead apron to shield against radiation. The risk is greater for women who are pregnant, which is why radiologists routinely ask female patients if they are pregnant or could be pregnant.
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