Positron emission tomography, also called PET imaging or a PET scan, is a diagnostic examination that involves the acquisition of physiologic images based on the detection of radiation from the emission of positrons. Positrons are tiny particles emitted from a radioactive substance administered to the patient. The subsequent images of the human body developed with this technique are used to evaluate a variety of diseases.

PET scans are used most often to detect cancer and to examine the effects of cancer therapy by characterizing biochemical changes in the cancer. These scans can be performed on the whole body. PET scans of the heart can be used to determine blood flow to the heart muscle and help evaluate signs of coronary artery disease. PET scans of the heart can also be used to determine if areas of the heart that show decreased function are alive rather than scarred as a result of a prior heart attack, called a myocardial infarction. Combined with a myocardial perfusion study, PET scans allow differentiation of nonfunctioning heart muscle from heart muscle that would benefit from a procedure, such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery, which would reestablish adequate blood flow and improve heart function. PET scans of the brain are used to evaluate patients who have memory disorders of an undetermined cause, suspected or proven brain tumors or seizure disorders that are not responsive to medical therapy and are therefore candidates for surgery.

Is PET-CT covered by insurance?

Medicare and most insurance cover PET-CT for many conditions. *Some insurance covers additional conditions for which PET-CT is useful.

Diseases for which PET-CT is covered by private insurance or Medicare (CMS):

Cancers: Breast, Colorectal, Esophageal, Head and neck, Lung, Lymphoma, Melanoma Thyroid, Cervical

Non Cancer Conditions: Solitary pulmonary nodule, epilepsy (pre-surgical evaluation), Alzheimer’s or Fronto-temporal Demential, Cardiac perfusion, Cardiac viability

How long is the procedure?

It depends on the type of PET-CT scan your doctor ordered. In general please allow 2-3 hours for the entire visit. This includes time to prepare you for the scan and time in the scanner.

What about family or friends accompanying me to the appointment?

People who are not patients are unable to wait in the injection rooms or scan room. Please make arrangements for childcare. We cannot be responsible for children left unattended. Family/friends are welcome to remain in the waiting area or come back when the patient’s PET-CT scan is completed.

What if I am claustrophobic?

If you have had difficulties with CT scans in the past and feel the PET-CT may cause anxiety, please ask your physician to advise you. Claustrophobic patients may need to obtain a prescription from their physician before the appointment. If so, you will need to have a family member or friend accompany you to the appointment in order to drive you home after any sedative.

Will someone need to drive me?

If your doctor gives you medication to reduce anxiety during the exam, you will not be able to drive yourself home. The PET-CT will not affect your ability to drive.