About PET/CT Imaging

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and CT (Computed Tomography) scans are unique, powerful imaging tools that physicians use to pinpoint disease states in the body. A PET scan detects areas of high metabolic activity within the body. It can identify changes that take place at the cellular level when disease, such as cancer, is present. This is accomplished by injecting a small amount of glucose (sugar) that is combined with a safe, short-lived radioactive material (FDG) into the body. The FDG accumulates in areas of high metabolic activity, such as the heart and bladder, as well as in abnormal cancer cells that are highly metabolic and use more glucose than normal cells. The scan is able to detect the earliest signs of disease in the body.

A CT scan, which combines X-ray technology with advanced computer applications, provides detailed information about your body’s anatomy, including information on the size, shape, and location of an abnormality. CT is able to produce extremely thin cross sectional images, or “slices,” that allow for accurate measurements of your body’s anatomical structure. CT is a primary source of information in oncology evaluation.

Recent advances in technology have resulted in the development of a scanner that fuses PET and CT images together. By combining these two scanning technologies, a PET/CT scan enables physicians to identify whether an abnormality is present, how active it is, whether it has spread, and precisely where it is located. This complete picture of a patient’s health status assists physicians in more accurately identifying cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders.

PET/CT is a powerful, proven diagnostic imaging modality that displays the biological basis of function in the organ systems of the human body unobtainable through any other means. This more complete picture of your health status enables physicians to more accurately diagnose and identify cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders, in addition to provide early diagnosis and treatment of an illness.

Medicare now covers PET/CT imaging for many cancer indications, such as lung, breast, colorectal, head and neck, esophageal cancer, lymphoma and melanoma. Coverage is also available for epilepsy and heart disease.

Our goal is to make your visit as comfortable as possible and to provide your doctor or provider with a speedy and accurate interpretation of the results of your PET/CT exam. If you have any questions or concerns about your exam, please do not hesitate to ask us.

PET/CT Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does a PET/CT scan feel like?
    A PET/CT scan is painless. There are no known side effects following a PET/CT examination. You won’t feel anything during the exam – there is no heat generated by the PET/CT scan. For some patients, keeping still may be slightly uncomfortable.
  • What Does a PET/CT Do?
    • Effectively pinpoints the source of many of the most common cancers, heart disease, and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, eliminating the need for redundant tests and diagnostic surgical procedures.
    • Tell whether a tumor is benign or cancerous.
    • Shows all the organ systems of the body in a single exam, so it can indicate whether or not cancer has spread.
    • Diagnose disease often before it shows up on other tests.
    • Shows the progress of disease and how the body responds to treatment.
  • What are the benefits of PET/CT?
    PET/CT inspects all of the organ systems of the body in a single scan. The procedure facilitates earlier diagnosis of disease and evaluates how your body may be responding to treatment.
    A PET/CT scan provides the following key benefits:

    • Provides detailed diagnostic information that isn’t available from other tests (CT, MRI, ultrasound, etc.).
    • Shows whether a tumor is malignant or benign.
    • Reveals coronary artery disease and resulting tissue damage in the heart.
    • Diagnoses complex neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Down’s Syndrome.
    • Detects disease with fewer invasive diagnostic procedures.
    • Tracks the results of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
    • Providing information that results in less need for intensive surgery and/or avoidance of some surgeries.
    • Identifies distant tumors and differentiates between scar tissue and tumor recurrence.
  • How long will my scan take?
    The procedure typically lasts 45 minutes, though it may be shorter for some patients. Please allow one and a half to two hours for your entire appointment.
  • What should I wear for the PET/CT?
    For your comfort, wear loose fitting clothing. In some instances we may have you wear a gown. Please keep jewelry and personal accessories (phone, keys, change, etc.) to a minimum.
  • Will I be sedated for the procedure?
  • Most PET/CT patients do not require sedation for their scan. OAI does not provide medication to help you relax. If you feel this is necessary, please make arrangements with your ordering physician before your appointment (plan for a ride home if you are sedated).The PET/CT scanner is very quiet; however, we encourage you to bring a calming CD of your choice to listen to during your scanning time.

PET/CT Exam Preparation

At Oregon Advanced Imaging, we want to ensure you receive the highest level of imaging service. Our caring staff will work to make your experience as comfortable and easy as possible.
Our office will contact you to schedule your appointment, provide you with dietary preparation instructions, and answer any questions you may have. We have listed the basic patient preparation instructions below for your convenience.

  • Getting Ready For Your PET/CT
    • Tell your doctor and our staff if you are diabetic. If you are diabetic, contact our scheduling department at 541-608-0350 for supplemental dietary instructions.
    • Tell your doctor and our staff if you are pregnant, think you might be pregnant, or if you are a nursing mother.
    • Do not exercise at least 24 hours before your appointment.
    • After 5:00 p.m. the evening before your appointment do not eat processed foods or foods containing sugar or carbohydrates. Eating a simple dinner high in protein is best. Do not eat anything after midnight unless otherwise advised. You should drink enough water to stay properly hydrated. Based on your condition, additional dietary instructions may be given to you.
    • For your comfort, wear loose fitting clothing. In some instances, we may provide a gown. Please keep jewelry and personal accessories (phone, keys, change, etc.) to a minimum.
    • We recommend contacting your insurance company regarding benefits and coverage before your appointment date. Please bring your medical insurance card(s) to your appointment.
    • Payment arrangements may be made with our OAI Billing Department prior to your appointment by calling 541-608-0350.
    • Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be asked to pay a minimum amount on the day of your scan. Our billing department can assist you with determining this amount before your appointment. We gladly accept MasterCard, Visa, checks, or cash.
  • What to Expect During Your PET/CT Exam
    • Please allow approximately one and a half to two hours for your scan. You will be injected with a very small amount of short-lived radionuclide called 18F FDG. You will feel no physical effects from the FDG.
    • After the FDG injection, you will relax in a comfortable chair for 45-60 minutes for the “Uptake Period”. Your actual PET/CT exam takes approximately 30-45 minutes (it can take as few as 10 minutes for some smaller patients).
    • The PET/CT scanner is very quiet; however, we encourage you to bring a calming CD of your choice to listen to during your scanning time.
    • Most PET/CT patients do not require sedation for their scan. OAI does not provide relaxation medication. If you feel this is necessary, please make arrangements with your ordering physician before your appointment, and plan to have a ride home if you are sedated.


Alzheimer’s Imaging with PET/CT

Traditionally, physicians have relied on medical history, physical examination, neuropsychological evaluation, and interviews with family members to detect Alzheimer’s. But because Alzheimer’s symptoms may resemble those of other neuropsychiatric disorders, reaching an early and accurate diagnosis can be difficult.

  • What Can a PET/CT scan tell you about memory health issues?
    The value of PET scans can be seen in the images themselves. Since PETs show the level of metabolic activity in the brain, areas of low activity can be clearly seen. A PET scan shows a very consistent diagnostic pattern for Alzheimer’s disease, where certain regions of the brain have decreased metabolism early in the disease. A PET/CT is also used to differentiate Alzheimer’s from other types of dementia or depression.
  • Why Is early Alzheimer’s detection so important?
    Timely detection and confirmation of Alzheimer’s disease allows for:
  • Early drug therapy to slow the loss of the patient’s ability to function.
    There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but a number of new drug treatments are being developed. Drugs are now available that affect the chemical systems of the brain. If these drugs are administered early in the course of memory loss, they help delay the progression of symptoms in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Additional drug studies are underway, which will hopefully bring about more substantial improvements in the course of the disease.
  • Positive and accurate diagnosis of other memory loss issues such as chronic depression and normal aging.
    PET may diagnose Alzheimer’s early enough to make full use of drug therapies and also to reassure fearful patients who might not have the disease. Depression, vitamin deficiencies, and thyroid problems can also cause memory issues. Accurate and early diagnosis of the cause of memory loss is the first step to possible treatment.
  • Future planning before loss of mental capacity.
    Your ability to plan for your future is very important. Sharing in the decision making process before it becomes too taxing provides both you and your loved ones a chance to make the best choices.
  • Help in the discovery and development of new therapies.
  • A number of national studies accept candidates in all stages of Alzheimer’s. These studies are conducted to better understand the evolution of the disease. If you’re interested in finding out more about the studies available, please visit the National Institutes of Health website.
  • About Dementia

    Dementia is a general term that describes a group of symptoms such as loss of memory, judgment, language, complex motor skills, and other intellectual function-caused by the permanent damage or death of the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons. One or more of several diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, can cause dementia.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in persons over the age of 65. It represents about 60 percent of all dementias. The other most common causes of dementia are vascular dementia, caused by stroke or blockage of blood supply, and dementia with Lewy bodies. Other types include alcohol dementia, trauma dementia, and rare frontotemporal dementia.

    The clinical symptoms and the progression of dementia vary, depending on the type of disease causing it, and the location and number of damaged brain cells. Some types progress slowly over years, while others may result in sudden loss of intellectual function.

  • What Can I Do If Someone I Know Has Memory Loss Issues?
    Address the issue as soon as possible. The earlier Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairing health issues are diagnosed, the better the treatment options are. Taking action early is the best way to help your loved one. Call his or her primary care physician for an appointment. If the physician feels further diagnosis is needed, a Memory Screening Test may be ordered, which is the first step toward identifying Alzheimer’s or other memory issues.
  • How Can I Keep My Brain Healthier As I Age?

    The key to successful aging is a healthy, common sense lifestyle. The goals are to slow or prevent the loss of brain cells, maintain the brain’s capacity to make up for any loss, and let remaining brain cells function well. This requires a healthy body, mind and spirit.Here are some tips for successful aging:

    • Visit your doctor regularly.
    • Participate in activities that stimulate your brain, such as reading, crossword puzzles, playing bridge, and other mental exercises.
    • Manage stress through techniques such as relaxation, meditation and yoga.
    • Treat depression. Depressed elders have higher rates of dementia, lower quality of life and higher rates of death.
    • Be social. Maintaining a network of friends will lessen the likelihood of isolation and depression while increasing the overall level of brain stimulation.
    • Exercise daily, such as walking 30 minutes per day. Physical activity significantly lessens the chance of cardiovascular complications that could cause dementia.
    • Control hypertension, diabetes and heart disease—risk factors for dementia—through physical exercise, quitting smoking, controlling your blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and avoiding obesity.
    • Follow a healthy diet and take vitamins, including vitamins C and E, and folic acid.
    • Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the brain that adds to the loss of nerve cells and synapses.

PET/CT Images

PET/CT is a remarkable new technology that produces extremely precise images of internal organs and tissues. Below are some examples of PET/CT images: