Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a molecular imaging method that uses small amounts of radioactive materials called radiotracers to detect molecular activity in the body. PET scans help doctors evaluate how well organs and tissues are working and help diagnose many conditions, including cancers, heart disease, neurological and other disorders. PET scans are available on the Reston Hospital Center campus at PET of Reston.

How You Benefit

PET scans provide extremely detailed high-resolution images, leading to more accurate diagnoses and sometimes avoiding the need for exploratory surgery. For many diseases, these scans provide the most useful information needed to make a diagnosis or to determine appropriate treatment, if any. By identifying biochemical changes in the body at the cellular level, PET imaging can often detect disease before it's evident with other imaging methods.

We also have the technology to combine PET and CT images for an even higher level of accuracy and definition in disease diagnosis. With this combined PET/CT scanning technology, you can be assured your doctors are basing your care decisions on the most accurate information available.

What to Expect

A certified nuclear technologist will give you a radioactive substance intravenously. Once the substance has been absorbed, the scan can take place.

The PET scanning machine detects and records the energy levels from the substance that was injected earlier. The images are viewed on a computer monitor. You may be asked to perform specific tasks before or during the test. For example, during a heart PET scan, you may be asked to walk on a treadmill. The scan process lasts about one to two hours.

Learn more about PET scans in our online Health Library.