A PETCT (Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography) scan combines a CT scan and a PET scan into one scan. The scan uses X-ray technology together with a radioactive tracer to create a 3D picture of the inside of the body. The images taken produce a detailed picture of the internal anatomy and function. These images will allow your doctor to plan any treatment required more accurately.
Before the scan you will be given an injection (usually in the arm) of a low -dose radioactive form of sugar. This allows us to measure the activity of cells in different parts of the body.
After a rest period of about an hour, your scan is then carried out which is painless and usually takes about 30 minutes.
The whole procedure takes approximately 2 hours.
If you need to talk to us about your appointment please call us on 0845 600 2953
The Scanning Unit
Your scan will be carried out at an InHealth unit. This may be a mobile unit, located in the car park of a hospital. The mobile unit looks like a large white trailer with PETCT NHS Diagnostic Imaging Service written on the side. The details of the location of the scanning unit are described on the map which will be sent to you with your appointment letter. Details of how to get to the scanning location can also be found using the Location Finder
At Portsmouth and Nottingham the scanning unit is in a purpose built building on the hospital site.
The units are staffed by Radiographers, Nuclear Medicine Technologists and Healthcare Assistants.
Before your Appointment
- You must not eat anything for the 6 hours before the scan appointment time
- You must also not drink any meal supplements, liquid food (such as Ensure, Fortisip) tea or coffee, flavoured water or squash during the 6 hours before your appointment time
- You must drink plenty of plain water
- You must continue to take your usual medication, with the exception of insulin if you are diabetic (see below)
If you are diabetic you should take your usual insulin dose 6 hours before the scan appointment time together with your usual breakfast and then take no more insulin or food.
If you are diabetic you must take food and drink with you in case you have a “hypo” and to eat before you leave the hospital to travel home.
During the 24 hours before your appointment time, you should avoid strenuous physical activity e.g. horse riding or exercising in the gym.
Pregnancy or breast feeding
If you are pregnant or think that you might be pregnant or you are breast feeding, please contact the Patient Referral Centre on 0845 600 2953.
What should I wear?
Please leave jewellery at home and wear comfortable clothes, socks and flat shoes. Please try not to wear clothes with metal zips or an under-wired bra. A tracksuit and trainers are ideal.
Some patients feel cold on the units even on a warm day, so please bring additional warm clothes, such as a fleece or a jacket with a hood or if you don’t have a hooded jacket a warm hat would be useful.
You will not normally change into a gown for the scan so will be scanned in your own clothes. Female patients will be asked to remove an under-wired bra just prior to the scan.
What should I bring with me to my appointment?
- Any medication that you would normally take during the day
- A book or personal music/radio device
- A warm jacket or fleece and a warm hat
- A packed meal and drink to have after the scan before you travel home.
During your appointment
You should arrive 15 minutes before your scan appointment time.
If you realise that you will be late or unable to attend the unit please contact the Patient Referral Centre on 0845 600 2953.
After you have been greeted at reception, a member of staff will explain the procedure.
Please feel free to ask any questions regarding the PETCT scan at this point. A member of staff will then take a short medical history from you to assist the doctor who reports the scan.
The Radiographer or Nuclear Medicine Technologist will then inject a small amount of a colourless liquid called 18FDG (low-dose radioactive form of glucose) into a vein in your arm.
You will then rest for approximately one hour prior to your scan. The rest period is to allow the body time to take up the injection. During this rest period you will be asked not to move or talk, as this can affect the quality of the scan. Depending on the type of scan your doctor has requested, you may be able to read or listen to music during this period so please bring a book or personal music device with you.
You will then be asked to visit the toilet to empty your bladder before your scan. This is to ensure the bladder is empty and gives a good view of the pelvic region.
Following this you will be taken to the scanner for your scan, where you will be asked to lie flat and still on a narrow scanning table during the scan for approximately 30 minutes.
You will then be free to leave the PETCT unit.
After your scan
It would be a good idea to eat and drink before you leave the hospital. You may want to bring a packed meal with you in case you cannot find something you like in the hospital cafe.
You should continue to drink plenty of fluids for the remainder of the day.
We recommend that you avoid close contact with children and pregnant women for 6 hours after your scan.
How do I get my results?
The staff on the PETCT unit cannot discuss the results of your scan with you.
The scan is usually reviewed within a few days and the report will be sent to the doctor who referred you for the PETCT scan. Once the results have been discussed with the hospital team caring for you the results will be explained to you.
How much radiation do I receive from the scan?
The scan and injection will give you the equivalent to a period of a few years’ natural background radiation. The injected radiation decays in the first 6 hours after the scan.
What about my relatives or accompanying friends?
If you come with friends or relatives there are several waiting areas or coffee shops where they can wait whilst you have your scan. They will be informed how long they will need to wait and when they can collect you from the scanning unit.
It is very important that you do not bring children or pregnant friends with you because the PETCT scan uses radiation and children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to radiation.