A PET-CT scan combines two types of imaging to gather very precise information about how parts of your body look and function. It’s a type of nuclear medicine scan. PET-CT scan stands for positron emission tomography-computed tomography.

Why Do I Need a PET-CT Scan?

Your physician might ask you to get a PET-CT exam to help detect, diagnose or guide treatment of:
Brain and nervous system disorders
Heart problems


Preparing for PET-CT

Follow your care team’s instructions to make sure you get clear, accurate results.

What to Eat

Your doctor will ask you to follow a special low-carbohydrate diet for 24 to 48 hours before your test, depending on the reason for your exam. Drink plenty of water during this time.

Foods That Are OK 

Suggested foods include:
Beverages: Black coffee or tea (OK to add artificial sweetener and half-and-half) diet soda, sugar-free Crystal Light, water (plain and zero-calorie flavored water)
Condiments: Dill pickles; hot sauce; mayonnaise, salad dressing and barbeque sauces with 3 grams or less per serving of carbohydrates; oil; olives; tartar sauce; vinegar
Dairy: Butter, cheese, half-and-half, light yogurt (one serving), low-fat cottage cheese, sour cream
Proteins: Eggs; hot dogs; lunch meat; nonbreaded poultry, meat or seafood; peanut butter (one to two servings); sunflower seeds and most nuts (2 ounces) 
Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, radishes, spinach, zucchini

Foods to Avoid

When following your pre-PET-CT scan diet, do not consume:
Beverages: Alcohol, juice, non-diet soda
Bread, chips, crackers, pasta, rice and other grains (including those labeled “low carb”)
Condiments: Jam and jelly, ketchup, sauces and gravies, syrup
Sugar or foods containing sugar, including gum and breath mints
Vegetables: Carrots, corn, legumes/beans, peas, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, veggie burgers

When to Stop Eating

Six hours before your exam stop eating, chewing gum or drinking anything other than water 
Ask your care team if it’s OK to take your regular medications the day of your exam. If you have diabetes, you will need to stop taking insulin the day of your exam. Talk to your doctor about other ways to control your glucose.

The day before your exam, avoid strenuous physical activity, such as jogging or heavy lifting.


What If I Need to Reschedule?

If you need to reschedule, please give us at least 24 hours’ notice. Reschedule by calling 616.267.2626.

What to Bring 

When you come to Spectrum Health for your PET-CT scan:
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes with no or little metal
Leave jewelry at home
Bring a list of current medications
Bring a book or DVD, if desired

What to Expect

Plan to spend about three hours at Spectrum Health for your PET-CT scan.

You’ll relax in a private room while you receive a small, safe amount of a radioactive material through an IV. Your room has a recliner and a television with a DVD player, so you can watch TV or a movie while you wait for the material to travel through your body. 

During your imaging test, you’ll lie on a narrow table that slides into a donut-shaped machine with a wide, spacious opening. We’ll help you feel as comfortable as possible by providing pillows and blankets, and tuning our satellite radio to music you enjoy.

The scanning bed will move back and forth several times during your test. Most scans take 30 to 60 minutes. 

For some tests, your care team may ask you to take another medication or some contrast material to make parts of your body show up better on the images.

After Your PET-CT

After your test, you can return to your usual activities, unless your doctor gives you other instructions. Drink plenty of water to help the radioactive material pass through your body.

Test Results

Your test results will be available in 24 to 48 hours. We’ll share your results with the doctor who ordered your test. Your doctor will explain the results and help you decide next steps.