Nuclear Medicine Scans (PET & SPECT)

Find information about your health thanks to nuclear medicine technology at an Adventist HealthCare Imaging center near you.

What’s Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a type of medical imaging that uses a small amount of radioactive material known as a tracer. The tracer makes detailed images of the inside of your body show up on a special camera so your doctor can diagnose a health condition.

A nuclear medicine scan can show signs of a health problem earlier than other imaging tests. This means you can get treatment sooner, when it may be faster and more effective.

Why Do I Need This Scan?

Your doctor may recommend a nuclear medicine scan to see how well parts of your body work or to find out if a disease has spread anywhere in your body. This type of scan can show:

  • Brain conditions
  • Bleeding in the bowel
  • Blood flow and heart function
  • Bones with a fracture, arthritis, infection or tumor
  • Breathing or blood-flow problems in the lungs
  • Gallbladder blockages
  • Kidney function
  • Location of an infection
  • Signs of cancer or spread of cancer to other parts of the body
  • Thyroid gland function

Brain Imaging Services

Look to Adventist HealthCare for neuroimaging scans that help your doctor diagnose conditions that affect the brain, including:

Types of Nuclear Medicine Scans

The type of scan you have depends on the part of the body your radiologist will test, your symptoms and other factors.

PET/CT Scans

PET/CT stands for positron emission tomography/computed tomography. It uses two imaging tests to create detailed images of the inside of the body to find or monitor cancer, heart diseases and brain disorders, or check blood flow.

You may have a PET/CT scan of:

  • Base of the neck to mid-thigh
  • Bone
  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Whole body from top of head to toes


SPECT/CT stands for single photon emission/computed tomography. This imaging test can create high-quality images of the inside of the body to diagnose and/or monitor:

  • Brain conditions
  • Bone and joint (orthopedic) conditions
  • Cancer
  • Endocrine conditions that affect the thyroid gland
  • Infections
  • Lung and breathing (pulmonary) conditions

How to Prepare

When you schedule your appointment, ask your scheduler how to get ready for your scan. Tell your scheduler if you:

  • Are allergic to intravenous (IV) or oral contrast
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Are pregnant or could be pregnant
  • Have diabetes or kidney disease

Preparing for a PET/CT Scan

If your CT scan uses IV contrast, you’ll need a blood urea nitrogen (BUN) or creatinine report. Ask your doctor or scheduler how to get a BUN or creatinine test. Send the results to our office within 30 days of the exam or bring them with you on the day of your appointment.

Follow any special instructions given by your physician or your scheduler. The way you get ready depends on the type of scan you need.

In the 24 hours before your PET/CT scan:

  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine and sugar you eat and drink.

Day of the Scan

On the day of your appointment:

  • Take your medication as usual. 
  • Test your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
  • Wear loose, metal-free clothing. Do not wear jewelry. 

When Should I Arrive?

Arrive at the imaging center at least 30 minutes before your appointment, unless you’re having a PET/CT scan with oral contrast.

Oral contrast for CT is a dye you take by mouth that can highlight the large and small intestine. If your test uses it, arrive at the imaging office an hour-and-a-half before your exam to drink the contrast. You can bring your own 36-ounce, non-carbonated beverage to mix with the contrast.

SPECT/CT Scan Preparation

If you’re having a SPECT/CT scan:

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions for preparing for your exam in the days and hours before the test.
  • Arrive at the imaging center at least 15 minutes before your appointment.
  • Wear loose, metal-free clothing. Do not wear jewelry.


What to Bring

Bring the following to your appointment:

  • Any scans or reports from outside of Adventist HealthCare
  • Insurance cards and photo ID
  • List of current medications
  • Referral from your physician

What to Expect

Your Adventist HealthCare nuclear medicine team will focus on your comfort, safety and well-being during your test.


PET/CT Scan Procedure

You may be asked to change into a gown. Your technologist will guide you to an exam table and ask you to lie down. If your scan uses (intravenous) IV contrast, your technologist will inject the contrast.

The exam table will move first through the CT scanner. Then, you’ll go through the PET scanner. Your appointment may last from two to three hours.

SPECT/CT Scan Procedure

Your technologist will inject a small, safe dose of medicine that has radiation into your body. Your technologist will guide you to an exam table and ask you to lie down.

During your scans, rest as still as possible so the machines can take the best images. Tell our staff if you find it hard to be still. The exam table will first move through the CT scanner and then the SPECT scanner.

How Long Will It Take?

Your exam will last between 30 to 60 minutes. The CT scan takes about five minutes, and the SPECT scan takes between 20 and 50 minutes.


Your Test Results

Your radiologist will analyze your test results and send them to your doctor in about 24 hours. Your doctor will follow up with you to discuss the results.

Make an Appointment

Call 301-590-8999 to schedule your radiology or imaging service.

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