When you arrive for your PET/CT scan, we will take a review of your history and any past exams. For the PET portion of the exam you will receive a radiopharmaceutical injection. This is a radioactive tracer that must pass multiple quality control measures before it is used for any patient injection. PET radiopharmaceuticals lose their radioactivity very quickly (2 to 3 hours) and only very small amounts are injected. In all cases, little or no radioactivity will remain in your body by 6 hours after injection.

PET/CT scannerFor the CT portion of the PET exam you will be required to drink oral contrast. For most studies, you will have to wait for the radiopharmaceutical to distribute itself – typically one hour. During this time you will be asked to relax. You will lie on a comfortable padded table. The table will move slowly through the tube-shaped PET/CT scanner. 

You will be asked to lie very still during the scan because movement can interfere with the results. You will be asked to breath normally during the scan. During the scan, you might hear a humming noise but you will not feel anything unusual. You may feel the table move while images are being taken at certain locations on your body. Our technologist will monitor you during the exam.
The PET/CT scan should last between 30 and 45 minutes. The exam procedure can vary depending on what we are looking for. Plan to spend two to three hours with us. The specific details of your upcoming exam will be explained fully by our technologist or your physician.
Before the Procedure
Preparations and length of a PET procedure depends on the type of PET scan your doctor ordered. Here are some general guidelines:
  • Please arrive one half hour before your scheduled exam at Hartford Hospital, Department of Radiology, 2nd Floor, Room 236.
  • Do not eat or drink anything except water for 4-6 hours before your exam because it could interfere with the results; do not even chew gum.
  • If you take medications, drink only enough plain water to swallow them.
    If you have been advised not to take your medications on an empty stomach, eat nothing more than a few soda crackers within 4-6 hours of your exam.
  • If you are diabetic, let us know ahead of time so we can work with your physician to determine the safest possible way for you to prepare for your exam.
  • If you feel feverish, please call this to our attention.
    In addition, please let us know if you might be pregnant or are currently breast feeding.
  • You should allow 2 to 3 hours for the entire visit.
  • If you have any questions about your scheduled procedure, please call (860) 972-2839  

You may leave us as soon as the exam is complete. Unless you have received special instructions, you will be able to eat and drink immediately – drinking lots of fluids soon after the exam will help remove any of the radiopharmaceutical that may still be in your system. In the meantime, we will begin preparing the results for review by our diagnosticians, and then by your physician, who will tell you what we have learned.

Be assured that PET/CT exams are a safe and effective diagnostic procedure. The radiopharmaceuticals used in PET do not remain in your system long, so there is no reason to avoid interacting with other people once you have left. To be extra safe, wait for a few hours before getting too close to an infant or anyone who is pregnant.