Health A-Z

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How It's Done

A PET scan usually is done as an outpatient test in a major medical center that has a small cyclotron, very advanced nuclear medicine equipment used to make the PET tracer.

The PET scanner is a ring-shaped apparatus with an attached table. You will lie on the scanning table, and the table will slide slowly through the opening in the scanner ring. One or two scans might be taken before the tracer is administered. After this initial scanning, either you will inhale the tracer or it will be injected into one of your veins, usually in your arm. Additional scans will be taken while the tracer is in your body.

During the scanning procedure, you must lie very still. The scanning table will glide you through the PET scanner, so you won't need to move. If your head is being scanned, special cushions may be placed against your head to hold it in place. The entire scan should take 30 minutes to two hours. Afterward, you can go home and resume your normal activities.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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