Mercy Medical Center North Iowa


What is a PET/CT Scan?
The PET/CT Scan combines the functional information from a PET exam with anatomical information from a CT exam in one single image. The PET exam detects metabolic activity in cells and the CT exam provides an anatomical reference. When these two images are combined your physician can locate metabolic changes in your body.

Why did the doctor order this scan for me?
Your physician may have ordered this test in order to help determine a course of treatment. This exam will help your physician diagnose any problems, determine the best approach to treatment and monitor your progress.

What do I need to do to prepare for the scan?
In order to prepare for this exam please do not eat or drink anything, except water, six (6) hours prior to the exam. You are encouraged to drink as much water as you like. Gum, breath mints, cough drops, hard candy or anything that may contain sugar should not be consumed six (6) hours prior to the test.

All medication should be taken as directed by your physician, as long as they are tolerated on an empty stomach.

  • Those who are non-insulin dependent diabetics may take their medication except for diabetic tablets. These may be taken when the scan is completed.
  • Those who are insulin dependent diabetics must have a morning breakfast; take their normal insulin, and then fast for four (4) hours prior to the time of the appointment.

You will not be required to remove any clothing for the scan unless it contains metal; therefore, please try and limit the amount of metallic objects worn to the exam if possible, for example zippers, snaps, hooks and suspenders.

It also is advised that you do not engage in strenuous physical exercise for 24-hours prior to the exam.

Please notify the technologist if you may be pregnant.

In order to increase the quality of your PET images we recommend that you follow a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet for 24-hours prior to the exam.

What should I expect when I arrive at the hospital?
You will first need to check in and register at the Admitting/Registration desk that is located near the main entrance of Mercy Medical Center - North Iowa.

If you are a patient with Mercy Cancer Center, you will first need to register with that office.

When you register, you personal information, as well as your insurance information, will be updated. Once you are registered you will be given a pager and asked to sit in the waiting area. A technologist will page you and take you to Mercy Imaging Services' Nuclear Medicine area.

Who will be in the scanning room with me?
Your family is welcome to accompany you during the explanation of the test, but will be asked to return to the waiting area after you have been given the injection of the imaging tracer. A nuclear medicine technologist will perform your scan. 

What will I experience during the scan?
The technologist will ask you some questions regarding your medical history and the problem(s) you are experiencing.

You will be given an injection of a radioactive tracer called FDG, which is a radioactive sugar and is taken up more rapidly by diseased cells than normal cells. There are no side effects from this injection. There will be a one-hour wait for this tracer to circulate before the scan can be preformed. During this wait you will be asked to remain in the PET prep room and to rest while the tracer circulates. By not using your muscles during the one-hour resting phase there is a better change of the FDG going to the appropriate areas. After the required wait time the scan will begin and take approximately 30 minutes.

What do I need to do after the scan?
Following your PET scan you can return to normal activities. A PET/CT exam is a safe procedure. The radioactive tracer used in this exam does not remain in your system long, so there is no need to avoid others once your exam is finished. However, we do ask that you wait for a few hours before getting close to an infant or anyone who is pregnant. Drinking extra fluids following your exam will help eliminate the radioactive tracer more quickly from your body. Within six (6) hours after the injection the majority of the tracer has been eliminated.

When will I get the results of the scan?
You will receive your results from your ordering physician.  You may receive a letter, a phone call, or have a follow up appointment with your physician.  If you are unsure of how you will receive your results, please contact your physician's office.

We are very concerned about any anxiety you may have about your exam. We are happy to answer any questions you may have! If you have questions, please call: 641-428-7787 or 1-800-433-3883, extension 7787.