Positron emission tomography (PET) scans involve the use of radioactive tracers — called radionuclides — to capture images of the inside of your body, and doctors use cardiac PET scans to view how your heart is functioning. These radionuclides are injected into one of your veins, and the blood’s progression through your heart can indicate where tissues may be weakened or diseased, allowing your doctor to accurately diagnose ailments such as coronary artery disease (CAD), or to assess the damage of a recent heart attack.
What doctors see with cardiac PET scans allows them to diagnose conditions such as CAD, cardiomyopathy, and heart valve disorders.
Having determined the condition of your heart, your Chinatown Cardiology doctor can then recommend proper treatment, such as angioplasty, stenting, or coronary artery bypass surgery.
Your doctor may order a cardiac PET scan if you’re experiencing any symptoms of heart trouble, including:
Your doctor may also order cardiac PET scans to track the effectiveness of heart disease treatments.
Even though the scan uses radioactive tracers, cardiac PET scans are perfectly safe for most patients. The procedure actually uses very little radiation, and your body gets rid of it shortly after the scan. However, if you’re pregnant, believe you might be pregnant, or are a nursing mother, please tell your doctor before having this procedure. It may be harmful to your baby.
Before you have your cardiac PET scan, be sure to advise your doctor of any medications you might be taking — even over-the-counter (OTC) medications and herbal supplements. You should also tell your doctor if you have any existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or allergies, as these may require your doctor to give you special instructions.
Your will be asked to not to eat anything for up to 3 hours before your procedure, and you must not have any caffeinated beverages for up to 24 hours before your test. You will still be able to drink water, juice and milk, however.
On the day of your procedure, your doctor may further advise you not to wear any metallic jewelry, as it can’t come with you into the scan.
A small IV will be placed into your arm. This IV allows the technicians to inject a medication into your vein that simulates exercise and radioactive tracers to help visualize blood flow. Electrodes will also be attached to your body for an electrocardiogram (ECG) to your chest. This ECG allows your doctor to monitor your heart rate.
You will be asked to lie down on a table which then glides slowly into the PET scan machine, which is shaped like a giant doughnut. Your technician may then advise you to remain as still as possible, so the machine can capture the clearest possible images of your heart.
Once the scan is complete, the table slides back out of the machine and your technician removes the ECG electrodes.
After your PET scan, your physician may advise you to drink plenty of fluids so you flush the tracers out of your system. These tracers should be naturally expelled from your body within about 48 hours. Otherwise, you should be able to go about your normal routine right away.
Be sure to make a follow-up appointment with your doctor to discuss the results of your scan and subsequent steps for your treatment.
If you believe you’re experiencing any symptoms of heart trouble, call Chinatown Cardiology or make an appointment online today.