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PET Scan

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a test that uses a special type of camera and a tracer (radioactive chemical) to look at organs in the body.

During a PET scan, a radioactive substance called a tracer is typically injected into a vein (usually in the arm), but sometimes it may be inhaled. The tracer usually is a special form of a substance (such as glucose) that can be used (metabolized) by cells in the body.

A PET scan is often used to evaluate cancer, such as of the lung or colon. It also can be used to evaluate the heart's metabolism and blood flow and examine brain function.

PET scan pictures do not show as much detail as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerHoward Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Last RevisedJuly 28, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 28, 2011
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