What Is a PET Scan?

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According to Mayo Clinic, a PET scan is an imaging test that helps determine how tissues and organs in the body are functioning. Short for positron emission topography, a PET scan uses a radioactive drug tracer to show areas of the body that have unusually high levels of chemical activity, which typically relates to a disease or disorder. These areas show up as bright spots on a PET scan.

According to Healthline, PET scans show abnormalities in tissue at the cellular level and are regularly used to detect cancer, brain disorders, heart problems and issues with the central nervous system. PET scans provide doctors with the best view of complex diseases, including coronary artery disease, brain tumors and seizures.

According to Mayo Clinic, a PET scan procedure starts with giving the patient a radioactive drug tracer either orally or by injection and then waiting 30 to 60 minutes for the tracer to absorb into the body. The patient lies on a padded table that slides into the scanner. The scan takes about 30 minutes, and the patient must stay very still to prevent the scan images from becoming blurry. After the scan, the patient may be advised to drink plenty of fluids to flush the tracer from the body.