PET CT & Nuclear Medicine

What is PET CT & Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is an imaging modality used in radiology that involves the use of radioactive isotopes in the form of radiopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat certain disease processes. It is most commonly used for evaluation of the heart, liver, lungs and bones, but it is also used to evaluate kidney function, the brain, thyroid and skin.

What are the benefits of PET scan?

In addition to imaging, nuclear medicine technology can also use the localization ability of radiopharmaceuticals to treat certain diseases like cancer and to provide pain relief for cancer patients.

What are the side effects?

Typically, there are no side effects of these radiopharmaceuticals to the patient.

How does it work?

The radiopharmaceuticals will localize to specific areas in the body, allowing the radiologists who interpret these nuclear medicine studies to determine the extent of the disease based on physiology rather than only physical changes in the tissue. The administration of the radiopharmaceutical may involve ingestion, injection or inhalation of the material. This makes the patient the source of radiation and not an external device that will send X-rays through the patient.

Once administered, the patient will be imaged on a device called a “gamma camera,” which collects the emitted radiation to form a picture. In essence, the nuclear medicine picture is much like that of a newspaper as it contains many dots; each dot representing a radiation event. These pictures are often of a longer duration as they collect that radiation.


Find an Imaging Location Near You

Physician’s order required for services.


Quality & Safety

Patients who undergo nuclear medicine/PET imaging can be assured of the highest quality at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. All St. Elizabeth Healthcare nuclear sites are accredited by the American College of Radiology. In addition, safety is paramount. All St. Elizabeth Healthcare nuclear medicine technologists will survey female patients between the ages of 12-55 for any possibility of pregnancy prior to radiopharmaceutical administration.



Nuclear medicine/PET, like most healthcare technologies, is always growing and evolving. Many innovations have developed over the past few years, expanding nuclear medicine’s scope of practice:

  • Historically, the management of liver tumors has been a problem in the healthcare field. Surgically removing the tumor, with or without chemotherapy, has been used to improve the patient’s odds of survival. Unfortunately, many of these liver tumors are not operable. Y-90 microsphere therapy is used in these cases to attack the tumors within the liver—these radioactive spheres are deposited near the tumor by locating its blood supply and using catheters to reach the predetermined “best” location for effective killing of the tumor.

  • DaTSCAN is a relatively new nuclear medicine exam used to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Three-dimensional images of the brain are used to investigate the areas of the brain most commonly affected by Parkinson’s. Normal tissue will have a large uptake of the isotope whereas a brain suffering from Parkinson’s will have reduced uptake.

  • Sodium fluoride PET/CT bone scans represent a newer, more thorough evaluation of bone diseases than conventional nuclear medicine bone scans. Sodium fluoride is a radiopharmaceutical with higher energies that enable the scan to achieve higher sensitivity and specificity for the detection of metastatic cancers.

Patient Rights

American College of Radiology

You have the right to submit comments regarding this facility’s radiology imaging and treatment services.

Submit your comments in writing and send to the facility or to the following address:

American College of Radiology
Attn: Accreditation Program Patient Comments
1891 Preston White Dr.
Reston, VA 20191-4326

Office of Inspector General

To contact the Office of the Inspector General regarding Medicare or Medicaid services, please call: 1 (800) HHS-TIPS (447-8477).