What is it?

Please note! PET/CT scans are not performed at Maria Middelares General Hospital. We work with Groeninge General Hospital to conduct these.

A PET/CT scan provides information about your metabolism throughout your body. The cells of the body use certain nutrients, one of which is sugar. A PET/CT camera can visualise the metabolism of these nutrients when they have been radioactively labelled. This allows us to detect and visualise different kinds of disorders including malignant and infectious lesions.

For the test, we use a small quantity of radioactive sugar analogue. We inject this into a vein in the arm. The blood then carries the substance through your body. Abnormal cells absorb more of this sugar than healthy cells. The PET scan visualises these metabolic abnormalities. The CT scan provides additional information about the correct location of any potential lesions.

Safety and radiation

The idea of being administered a radioactive substance may cause you to have questions or negative feelings. This reaction is entirely understandable but misplaced. The material is only radioactive for a short period of time and will have practically disappeared from your body after 12 hours.

Neither you, the person with you or your family members are subject to risk. You can therefore interact as per normal with adults and children aged 12 or over. We do advise that children younger than age of 12 not sit on your lap for more than half an hour during the first 12 hours after the test. Playing, feeding, changing nappies and other daily activities are not a problem. Contact with pregnant women should be avoided for the first 12 hours after the test.

From 12 hours after the test, you may resume everything that you are used to. The radioactive material will have disappeared almost completely from your body by that point.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

It is not advisable to perform a PET/CT scan during pregnancy. It is therefore important to know if you are, or could be, pregnant.
Should you be pregnant or uncertain if you are, we ask you to inform us before the start of the procedure.

If you are breastfeeding, discuss this with the nurse before the examination. You will receive additional instructions about how to avoid unnecessary
radiation exposure to the child.

Test procedure

  • FASTING is required before the procedure. That means that you are not allowed to eat anything in the six hours prior to the test.
  • You may only drink water and coffee or tea without milk or sugar.
  • You may take your medication, except for insulin or blood glucose lowering drugs.
  • Inform us in advance if you are diabetic, (potentially) pregnant or breastfeed.
  • Tell us also if you are allergic to certain products.
  • The procedure will take two to four hours in total. Feel free to bring a book or magazines to pass the time in a pleasant way.

Preparation

You are administered medication beforehand to ensure that the body absorbs the radioactive sugar solution well. To optimise the CT scan you will
also be given a contrast agent to drink. Then, we place an intravenous drip in a vein in the arm to administer further medication.
The nurse will use the drop of blood produced at this time to measure the sugar level in your blood. The nurse then injects the labelled
sugar through the IV drip. You will not have an allergic reaction to this. Because sugar is easily absorbed by muscles when they move, it
is very important that you try to keep as still as possible for 30 minutes.

You are usually also administered a diuretic (water pills) so that all sugar present in the urine is removed from the body. This is why you need to empty your bladder completely before the start of the test itself.

After 30 minutes, you may get up, resume moving and wait. It is certainly possible to read a book or magazine at this point.

Procedure

Imaging will be started from 45 minutes at the earliest up to 1.5 hours after the injection of the radioactive sugar solution.

You will lie on the treatment table and will be moved into the wide, circular opening of the PET/CT device. Here, the weak radiation of the radioactive material is measured and converted into images by the computer. A CT scan is performed at the same time. To this end, you may be administered a contrast agent through the IV drip.

The total imaging procedure takes approximately 20 minutes. It is important that you keep as still as possible during this time.

After the test

You may leave the hospital immediately after the test, and you may resume eating, drinking and driving.

Results

We prepare a report of the test. This report, together with the images, is sent to the physician who requested the PET/CT scan. He or she will inform you of the test results at the next consultation.

Centres and specialist areas

Nuclear Medicine

Latest publication date: 05/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Van Den Bossche Bieke