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PET Scan



  • A PET scan is a procedure that uses a small amount of radioactive material injected into your child’s blood to diagnose many kinds of diseases or conditions.
  • Your child can go home soon after the test. Your child should drink plenty of liquids to help get rid of the radioactive material. Follow the healthcare provider's instructions


What is a PET scan?

A PET scan is a series of detailed pictures of your child’s body taken after a healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your child’s blood. A CT scan is also done. These tests are especially useful for looking at the brain or the heart and the whole body for the spread of some cancers.

When is it used?

A PET scan can be used to diagnose diseases or conditions. It may be done to find:

  • Problems with the heart muscle
  • Areas affected by a blood clot in an artery in the brain
  • Changes in the brain related to diseases such as epilepsy
  • The effect of drugs on the heart and brain
  • Mental disorders such as schizophrenia
  • Abnormal tissue, including cancerous and other tumors
  • Problems with blood flow

How do I prepare my child for this procedure?

  • Your child may or may not need to take regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell the healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements your child takes. Some products may increase your child’s risk of side effects. Ask the healthcare provider if your child needs to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your child’s provider if your child has any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your older child is or may be pregnant or is breastfeeding.
  • The healthcare provider will tell you when your child should stop eating and drinking, usually after supper the evening before the procedure. Eating affects blood glucose (sugar) levels and the PET scan results will not be accurate if your child’s blood glucose is too high.
  • Follow any instructions your child’s healthcare provider may give you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what the healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your child’s healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

This procedure may be done at a surgery center or hospital.

First your child will be given a small amount of radioactive material, called a tracer. The tracer will be injected into your child’s vein, usually in the arm. Over the next 2 to 3 hours, the tracer will be absorbed by the parts of your child’s body that are being studied, making it easier for your child’s healthcare provider to see any abnormal areas. Then your child will lie down on a moving table that slides into the PET scan machine, which is a large, hollow tube. Your child will need to rest quietly and try not to move or talk while the technologist takes pictures. It takes about 45 minutes to complete the scan. A CT Scan is a normal part of this study and may or may not be done in the same room.

A younger child may need medicines to help relax during the procedure.

What happens after the procedure?

Your child can go home soon after the test. Your child should drink plenty of liquids to help get rid of the radioactive material.

Follow the healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your child’s healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. One possible risk of this procedure is an allergic reaction to the chemical used in the scan.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider how this risk applies to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2022-02-07
Last reviewed: 2019-04-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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