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Positron emission tomography — also called a PET/CT scan — is a safe, effective and non-invasive diagnostic imaging technique that provides highly detailed images of the body. A PET scan shows metabolic changes and physiologic uptake that may not be seen on MRI or CT scans alone.
How Boston Children's Hospital approaches a PET scan
The Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging program at Boston Children's is committed to providing a safe, comfortable and child-friendly atmosphere with:
What is a PET/CT scan?
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a highly sensitive technology that uses a radioactive substance to show the chemical and functional changes within the body.
The radiopharmaceutical used is designed to go to the part of the body that is being tested.
When might a PET/CT scan be needed?
PET/CT scans can be a key to early diagnosis of cancer, as well as diseases of the brain and heart. They are performed to:
How should I prepare my child for a PET/CT scan?
You will be given specific instructions when you make your child's appointment. It is very important that you follow all preparation instructions or the scan will be rescheduled. In general:
What should I expect when I bring my child to the hospital for a PET/CT scan?
When you arrive, please go to the Nuclear Medicine check-in desk on the second floor of the main hospital. A clinical intake coordinator will check in your child and verify his or her registration information.
What happens during a PET/CT scan?
Obtaining a PET/CT scan involves three steps: injection of the radiopharmaceutical, an uptake period, and scanning by the PET/CT camera.
Injection of the radiopharmaceutical:
The uptake period:
The PET/CT scan:
Depending on the type of PET/CT scan, your child will be in the scanner from 30 to 45 minutes.
Will my child feel anything during a PET/CT scan?
Your child may experience some discomfort associated with the insertion of the intravenous needle. The needle used for the procedure is small. Once the radiopharmaceutical is injected, the needle is withdrawn and a bandaid is placed over the site of the injection. If a diagnostic CT is indicated, your child may receive IV contrast, and we will keep the IV in place and remove at the completion of the study. If your child receives IV contrast during the CT scan, it will be normal for him/her to feel warm during the administration, however, that feeling will go away after the administration of IV contrast is complete. IV contrast is only given when the physician feels it will aid in the diagnostic quality and/or interpretation of the study.
The PET/CT scanner does not touch your child, nor will he or she feel anything from the scanner.
Is a PET/CT scan safe?
We are committed to ensuring that your child receives the smallest radiation dose needed to obtain the desired result.
What happens after the PET/CT scan?
Once the PET/CT scan is complete, the images will be evaluated for quality by a nuclear medicine physician. If the scan is adequate, your child will be free to leave and resume normal activity.
One of the Children's nuclear medicine physicians will review your child's images and create a report of the findings and diagnosis.
How do I learn the results of the PET/CT scan?
The nuclear medicine physician will provide a report to the doctor who ordered your child's PET/CT scan. Your child's doctor will then discuss the results with you.
Department of Radiology
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”