PET/CT

Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography (PET/CT) is a non-invasive medical test used by doctors to diagnose and treat medical conditions. PET/CT is unique because the functional information PET provides is superimposed with CT imaging for precise anatomical localisation. Combining these scans in our state-of-the-art PET/CT scanner provides highly detailed information about the presence or current state of disease, as well as the precise location of disease.

PET/CT scans can provide information that other imaging modalities such as ultrasound, x-ray, MRI or CT can't provide, because radiologists can distinguish between living or dead tissue and benign or malignant tumours. If an area is a malignant cancer, the signals will be stronger compared with the surrounding normal tissue. If the area is dead tissue the signals will be less (or absent) compared with the surrounding normal tissue. PET/CT can identify early stage disease, sometimes before symptoms present.  

The main application of PET/CT is for detecting the spread of cancer to secondary sites, also known as cancer metastasis, prior to treatment. PET/CT is used to more accurately diagnose, localise and monitor cancer. PET/CT can also assess the blood flow and function of brain and heart tissue. 

Patient preparation

When a patient makes a booking, our staff will fully explain the preparation and examination. Patient preparation instructions can be found on the back of the PET/CT request form. 

For all patients:

  • Fast for six (6) hours prior to the appointment - no food, chewing gum, lollies or vitamins are allowed
  • Patient may drink as much plain water as he or she likes and use the toilet whenever required
  • No strenuous exercise for at least 12 hours prior to the appointment
  • Ask the patient to wear warm, comfortable, loose clothing without metallic fasteners such as clips, buttons or zips
  • Patient can take any medications (except medication for diabetes) at the usual time with plain water
  • Patient should bring the PET/CT request form, Medicare card and any relevant previous imaging to the appointment
  • If a patient has a colostomy bag, please bring a spare bag to the appointment

Patients with diet-controlled diabetes should also follow these instructions. 

Non-insulin dependent patients:

  • Appointments before 12pm – fast from midnight and no breakfast or oral diabetic medication.
  • Appointments after 12pm – eat a normal breakfast with oral diabetic medication, and then fast for six (6) hours prior to appointment time.

Insulin dependent patients: (patient should bring insulin to the appointment)

  • Appointments before 12pm – four (4) hours before appointment eat a normal meal and take usual insulin dose and then fast for four (4) hours. 
  • Appointments after 12pm – eat a normal breakfast and take usual insulin dose. Patient must fast for four (4) hours prior to the appointment and not take insulin. 

PET/CT results

One of our radiologists will interpret the PET/CT scan and provide the referring doctor with a comprehensive report about the findings. As several thousand images are collected in order to assess both the function and structure of the area of interest, we appreciate your patience while we fully assess the findings so the we can provide an accurate and comprehensive report.

We will advise patients to return to the doctor who referred them to discuss the results. For your convenience we can generally deliver the CD of images and a report, by lunchtime on the next working day. 

PET/CT safety

The small dose of radioactive glucose injected has no known side effects. You might also have a contrast injection for the CT scan. Patients should advise our staff if he or she:

  • has a known allergy to x-ray contrast media
  • is asthmatic, or
  • is pregnant or breast feeding, or will be accompanied by someone who might be pregnant.

Billing policy

Medicare provides funding for some PET/CT examinations when the scan is requested by a medical specialist. However, not all scans can be bulk-billed so we recommend that patients ask if there will be a fee when the booking is made.