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PET Scans

What is PET? 

PET imaging is a diagnostic imaging tool.  PET imaging is a process by which the biologic functions of the body are able to be imaged.  By using a small amount of a biological marker the PET scan can asses areas of abnormal glucose metabolism in the body.  This change in the metabolism may be seen before a physical change can be seen on a CT or MRI. The latest advancement in imaging has combined the PET scan with a CT scan (PET/CT) allowing areas of interest to be more accurately localized.

NorthShore University HealthSystem currently offers the PET/CT scan.

It is useful to help in diagnosis of:

What to expect? 

  • You will sit in a chair and receive an injection of a small amount of radioactive material called FDG in a vein in your arm.  This will not make you feel differently at all.
  • You will be asked to sit quietly for a period of time, usually about 30-60 minutes.   During this time you must sit and relax and will not be able to get up and walk around, talk to friends, or read.  This allows the tracer to travel throughout your body while it is in a relaxed state.
  • You will be asked to lie down on a table which will move you through the PET/CT scanner.   The machine has a larger opening than an MRI, and it does not make any sound.  The whole test takes about an hour.

What to do?

  • You will be asked to stop eating for 6 hours prior to having the PET/CT scan.  You may have as much water as you would like.
  • You will be asked to eat a low carbohydrate diet the dinner before your PET/CT scan.  Foods that can be eaten include meat, hard cheese, diet drinks, eggs, water.  You should stay away from breads and sugars (Milk is not allowed).  If you are scheduled in the late afternoon and can eat breakfast before the scan, it must be a low carbohydrate diet as well.
  • You will be asked to bring copies of any recent CT scans or MRI’s done outside of NorthShore University HealthSystem.

How will I learn the results?

At this point the images will be checked by a physician.

Does insurance cover the cost of the test?

PET/CT imaging is usually covered by Medicare and private insurance companies.  Private insurance usually follow Medicare guidelines but many will cover other indications for a PET/CT scan.  Contact your insurance for further information.

Listed below are some of the indications that Medicare will cover for a PET/CT scan. 

  • Head/Neck Carcinoma (Excluding Central Nervous system & some Thyroid)
    Diagnosis, Staging and Restaging
  • Lymphoma
    Diagnosis, Staging and Restaging 
  • Melanoma
    Diagnosis, Staging and Restaging
  • Myocardial Viability
    Initial diagnosis of following inconclusive SPECT 
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule