Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Parkinson's Disease Health Center

Select An Article

Parkinson's Disease and the PET Scan

Font Size

A positron emission topography (PET) scan is a test used to give doctors and their patients more information about how the cells in your body are functioning.

This is done by injecting a small amount of radioactive material known as a tracer into a vein in your arm. The tracer sends out small, positively charged particles (positrons) that interact with negatively charged particles called electrons in your body. The PET scanner is able to detect the product of this interaction and uses it to make an image. This process allows a doctor to look at a body organ from every angle and detect potential problems.

Recommended Related to Parkinson's

Michael J. Fox's Crusade for a Parkinson's Cure

Michael J. Fox has always been a poster boy. With his youthful good looks and intelligent charm, he rose to fame playing a sassy Republican teenage son of ex-hippie parents in the TV sitcom Family Ties. In the blockbuster Back to the Future film trilogy, he was a time traveler with perfect comedic timing. And in a later sitcom, Spin City, he made us wish all politicians were as personable as his Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty. In 1998, Fox became a poster boy for another reason: He went public with...

Read the Michael J. Fox's Crusade for a Parkinson's Cure article > >

Why Is a PET Scan Used in Parkinson's Disease?

For patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), a PET scan is used to assess activity and function of brain regions involved in movement. However, doctors may request a PET scan for many different reasons. Aside from potential problems in the brain and spinal cord, the test can also be used to diagnose heart problems as well as certain kinds of cancer, including breast, brain, lung, colon, and prostate cancers and lymphoma.

How Do I Prepare for a PET Scan?

Before undergoing the PET procedure, be sure to tell your doctor of any medication -- prescription or over-the-counter -- that you are taking, as well as any herbal medications you may be using. It is also very important that you tell the doctor if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, since the PET scan can be harmful to an unborn child.

As the test is about to begin, you will be asked to take off clothing that is covering the area of the body to be tested. Depending on the area of your body being tested, you may be asked to undress completely and put on a hospital gown. You will also be asked to remove any dentures, jewelry, or metal objects during the scan, since these items may affect the reading.

How Is a PET Scan Conducted?

A PET scan usually lasts 45-60 minutes. You will first be given the tracer through an IV. After that, the PET scanner, a doughnut-shaped instrument, will move in circles around you. As this is happening, a special camera will take pictures of patterns left by the tracer chemical inside your body.

After the PET scan is finished, you will likely be asked to drink a lot of water or liquids during the next day in order to get rid of or flush the tracer chemical from your system.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Parkinsons disease illustration
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
hands on walker
How does the disease progress?
man with serious expression
8 common questions and answers.
intelligence quotient illustration
What are the advantages of DBS?
Parkinsons Disease Medications
Questions Doctor Parkinsons
Eating Right
Parkinsons Exercise
daughter consoling depressed mother
senior man's hands
Parkinsons Daily

WebMD Special Sections