A PET/CT scan shows metabolic changes in the body. A radioactive tracer is attached to a sugar molecule called glucose which is injected at the start of the PET scan. Your body uses glucose as a source of energy. The PET portion of the scan shows us how your body metabolizes glucose whereas the CT portion shows the structure of the area being scanned. The two scans work together to locate areas of interest.
In preparation for this exam, your child must fast for 8 hours prior to your appointment time. During this fasting time, plain water and medications in pill form taken with water are allowed unless your child is having the exam done under general anesthesia. If your child is receiving general anesthesia, you will receive a call the day prior with more instructions.
Additionally, your child will be asked to follow a special diet beginning at 4p.m. the night before their exam. We also want your child to avoid strenuous activity for 24 hours prior to the exam. If they are on insulin, they will need to hold it for 4 hours prior to the exam.
The exam is done in three same-day appointments, each spaced an hour apart. The first appointment will be with our Medical Imaging Nurses. They will prepare your child for the exam by taking vital measurements, like height and weight, and placing an IV or accessing a chest port. If your child requires chest port access, please be sure to apply numbing cream to the area prior to arrival. Please be aware birth assigned females 10 years and older will need to provide a urine sample prior to the start of the exam.
For the second appointment, you will be taken to the PET uptake room. Here the radiopharmaceutical (the glucose mentioned earlier) will be given to your child through their IV. Parents over the age of 18 years, who are not pregnant, may accompany their child. Please note, no one under the age of 18 years old will be allowed in the uptake room. Please do not bring younger siblings to the appointment. Your child will wait in the uptake room for about 50 minutes until scan time. This delay allows the body to absorb the radiopharmaceutical. There is a movie screen in the uptake room where your child will be allowed to watch a movie during this waiting period. Cell phones/tablets are also allowed but the patient will be instructed to limit motion during the uptake phase. Please no videogames, texting, emailing, etc.
When it is time for the scan, your child will be asked to try and empty their bladder one last time and after a good hug, they will enter the scan room and you will be directed to the waiting room. We will bring them back to the waiting room after the exam. The scan will take approximately 45 – 60 minutes. Many children require anesthesia support because of the length of this procedure. This can be discussed with the doctor ordering the exam or the Imaging Staff prior to coming in for the exam. Dress your child comfortably, in clothes that are easily removed and are free from metal. Your child may be given a gown to change into for the procedure. If your child can successfully complete the exam awake, we have a Bluetooth speaker to connect a device to for them to listen to music/audiobook/podcast during the imaging.
For additional information on what to expect if your child is getting a PET/CT Body scan, please click here.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)/CT Brain
What is a PET scan?
A positron emission tomography (PET) scan takes pictures of metabolic changes (how the body builds up and breaks down materials), in this case, the brain. A radioactive liquid containing sugar is injected at the start of the PET scan. Your child’s brain uses glucose as source of energy, so the PET scan shows us how the brain is functioning. The CT scan shows the structure of the brain. The two scans work together.
How do I prepare my child for a PET scan?
Do not let your child eat or drink for 8 hours before the test. During this time, medications in pill form can be taken with water. There are some exceptions to this. Please ask your child’s doctor if you have questions. If your child is having the PET scan done under sedation, you will receive a call the day before with specific instructions. If your child is taking insulin, they will need to stop it for 4 hours before the PET scan.
What happens on the day of the PET scan?
On the day of the PET scan, dress your child in comfortable clothing without metals. Your child may be given a gown to change into for the PET scan. Before the PET appointment, your child may have an appointment in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit to place EEG wires.
There are three steps for the PET study:
Step 1: Meet with our nurses, who will measure your child’s height and weight and put in an intravenous (IV) line or access the port if your child has a chest port. If your child requires port access, please apply numbing cream to the area before arriving in the department. Please be aware that birth assigned females 10 years and older will need to provide a urine sample before the PET scan begins.
Step 2: Your child will be taken to the PET room. Here, the radioactive liquid will be injected. If you are more than 18 years of age and are not pregnant, you may accompany your child. No one under the age of 18 years old will be allowed in the PET room. Please do not bring younger siblings to the appointment. Your child will wait in the PET room for about 50 minutes for the injected liquid to flow to their brain. During this time, your child will be in a quiet room to relax. We ask that you avoid using cellphones, tablets, movies, or music, to avoid stimulating your child. You are free to wait with them in this room.
Step 3: When it is time for the scan, your child will enter the scan room and you will be asked to wait in the waiting room. During the PET scan, your child will lie inside the scanner tunnel and the scan will take about 15 minutes. Some children will require sedation to help them keep still while the scanner takes pictures of their brain.
For additional information on what to expect if your child is getting a PET/CT Brain scan, please click here.
To schedule an appointment, please call 312.227.4277. X-rays and ultrasound studies may be scheduled, rescheduled, and canceled through mychart.luriechildrens.org.
For other questions or concerns, or to speak with a radiologist, please call 312.227.4500.
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