Patient Information about PET Imaging

Preparing For Your PET And CT Scans

Your doctor has ordered PET and CT scans. During the exams, you will lie on a table that will pass slowly through a large opening in the scanner as a series of X-rays are taken, allowing the doctors to see detailed pictures of your organs.

You will be asked to lie perfectly still throughout the exams so that blurring of the pictures does not occur. Your time on the table will be about 20 to 30 minutes depending on your height, weight, and type of imaging being performed. The tests will take no more than three hours to complete.

For the PET exam, a small amount of a radioactive material will be injected through a small tube in your vein (IV). The radioactive material travels through the blood and collects in the organs and tissues.

Please allow three hours for the procedure.

At least three days before your exams

If you are having a CT with IV contrast injection:

  • Have your blood drawn at the laboratory. They will check to make sure you are in good health to receive the CT contrast injection.  

 If you are having a CT of the abdomen: 

  • You will need to drink oral contrast if we are imaging your abdomen or belly. Please pick up the oral contrast at Hillcrest, Thornton, or the Radiation Oncology PET-CT Center in La Jolla.

For all procedures:

  • Tell us ahead of time if you have diabetes, heart disease, or renal failure.  We will give you more instructions.
  • Please tell us if you might be pregnant or are currently breastfeeding.
  • Please tell us if you have a PICC line or a port installed. Bring any documentation regarding your port or PICC line.

The day before your exams

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water the day before the exams, and several glasses the day of the exams to make sure you are well hydrated.
  • Food that you eat the night before the exams must be high in protein (chicken, eggs, and beef). Do not eat carbohydrates or sugary meals (tortillas, bread, and fruit).
  • Do NOT exercise for 24 hours before your exams.

The day of your exams

CT of the abdomen:

  • Drink half of the contrast one hour before the exams. Then bring the remainder to your exams.
  • Do NOT eat or drink for at least four to six hours before the exams, except for water or oral contrast.
  • Take all prescribed medications on the day of your exams, unless told otherwise. If you have diabetes, call us ASAP unless you have received specific instructions regarding your medications.
  • If you would prefer not to change into a gown, please wear comfortable clothing with no zippers or snaps.
  • Please bring the results of any past imaging tests with you, such as PET, CT, or MRI on CD or digital media.
  • Please do NOT bring children or pregnant women with you (due to the radioactive material that will be injected).
  • If more than one CT is ordered, please follow the same instructions as above but do not eat or drink anything, except water, after midnight the night before the exams.
  • Please do not chew mints or gum, as this may compromise your PET scan.
  • Please - NO SMOKING.
  • Please let us know if you have received a vaccination in the last 30 days.

After the procedure

You should drink additional fluids for several hours. You may resume your normal diet and physical activity immediately following the scan.

The results of your scan are usually read within 24 hours and then sent to your physician. You should call your doctor three days after the exam or as otherwise directed.

Contact us

If you have any questions please contact the PET coordinator at 619-543-1998 or the PET/CT site manager at 858-246-1521.

Additional contact information for physicians and patients:

  • Raul Espinoza: 619-290-6863 (pager)
  • Susan Weibel (PET/CT Coordinator): 619-290-0080 (pager)

Radiation Oncology PET/CT Center
3960 Health Sciences Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
Tel:  619-543-1998
Fax: 619-543-1975

Center for Molecular Imaging
11388 Sorrento Valley Rd., Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92121
Tel:  858-246-1161
Fax: 858-373-2865