What can a PET CT scan show?

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What can a PET CT scan show? A PET scan can show depends on what part of the body is being scanned and for what purpose. For example, if you have a PET CT scan to look for cancer, your doctor will have several options. To have the most comprehensive view of your health, more than one PET CT scan is required to be taken at various intervals during your annual physicals.

Preliminary scans

First, they will ask you to lie down on a table under general anesthesia. Then, they will do some preliminary scans. They will place the positron-emitting isotope (PET) scanner directly above your head in just a moment. During the PET scan, the atoms of interest will be absorbed by the positrons. If there are high levels of positrons, your doctor will note this with a bright flash on the screen. If there are low levels of positrons, then the result will be a blurred image.

A High-Resolution X-Ray

Next, they will take a high-resolution x-ray of your upper torso or abdomen. The x-ray machine will show any areas of concern in your body. The scan will show your muscles, bones, organs, and other soft tissues as translucent or opaque materials. The thickness of the image taken will vary based upon the thickness of your skin, depending upon your body and location. If there is something noteworthy, it will be noted in detail.

View your physical condition

Another way to view your physical condition is through a PET film. A low-activity molecule, such as a mole, is seen as a black dot on the PET film. As the molecule moves through the PET, it becomes excited and will emit positrons. This will show up as a dark area in the PET film. These areas will change colors as the positrons move through your body. It will be helpful to know what this means for treatment.

Rapid heartbeat

An area of concern in many patients is a rapid heartbeat. This can be shown on the scans as rapid heartbeat or even irregular contractions of the heart. If the irregularity is present in both ears, it is possible it could be a tumor growing in one ear. If it only shows one ear, it is most likely a defect in the heart muscle.

Abnormalities in bone growth

One thing that can be found on a PET CT scan is abnormalities in bone growth. Dental problems can also be seen on these imaging screens. If a cavity or lesion is present, it will appear as a black dot on the PET scan. As the scan moves through the body, it will create a color pattern that will help identify the problem areas. Orthodontic work can use this data to correct the problem before braces are applied.

Blood flow

Another thing that can be found on a PET scan is blood flow. Blood vessels are made up of bundles of fibers, and when they become damaged, they show up as tiny dots on the imaging screen. They may be a constant stream, or they might be sparse and obscure. This can help determine whether there is a problem with a particular blood vessel causing the clot or the vein that is narrowing.


The types of imaging used in medicine are changing quickly. As more is learned about the body, new technologies are being developed to help doctors make a correct diagnosis. A recent study showed that it was possible to see brain activity using a susceptible instrument.

Other types of PET imaging allow the amount of tissue to be determined without affecting the patient’s memory or consciousness. This will make the results more meaningful to patients. Read more…

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