Oncologist Dr. Belinda Yeoh and a patient


Having a PET scan: information for patients

What is a PET scan?

Positron Emission Tomography - or PET scanning - is a type of medical imaging that shows how your organs and tissues are working. In most instances, a PET scan is combined with a CT scan. At Austin Health, the CT component of the PET/CT scan is merely used to gather structural information for the PET scan. It does not remove the necessity for you to have a standalone diagnostic CT scan, depending on clinical circumstances.

Before your PET scan

Please fast 6 hours prior to your appointment time. This means you can have nothing to eat or drink except water. We encourage you to keep hydrated by drinking water. If you are diabetic, claustrophobic, pregnant or breastfeeding, please contact the department well before you arrive for the appointment.

What does a PET/CT scan involve?

When you arrive for the PET scan, you will be attended to by a technologist, who will obtain a clinical history from you before explaining the procedure. You will receive a small amount of radioactive tracer injection and then be asked to lie quietly in a dark room for 1 hour. This is to enable the tracer to distribute throughout your body. You will then be taken into the scanner room for the PET/CT scan which typically takes 30-45 minutes. You should allow a minimum of two hours for the whole procedure. After the scan, you will be able to drive back home and go back to your normal routine. If you are claustrophobic and have received sedation, you will need to be driven for your appointment by another person since you will not be able to drive back home. Sometimes there can by unexpected delays due to delays in production of the radiotracer and scanner breakdowns. It is best not to schedule another appointment too close to your PET scan appointment.

Are there any risks from a PET/CT scan?

The amount of radioactivity you receive from the CT scan and the radioactive tracer is very small. There are no known side effects. If you have any concerns, please contact the department.

Who can book a PET scan?

At Austin Health, the PET referral must be completed and signed by a medical specialist/consultant. A GP cannot refer a patient for a PET scan.

Do I have to pay for a PET scan?

At Austin Health there is no cost for most PET scans if the patient is a permanent resident of Australia or an Australian Citizen. For a limited number of indications that are not approved by Medicare, there can be a charge to the patient. However the decision to charge is usually discussed with your referring doctor and yourself before attending the PET scan. For overseas patients, charges will apply and it is important that our office be notified of this.