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How is a PET scan different from CT or MRI scans?

PET scanning is used effectively in oncology, neurology, cardiology, neuroscience and others.

Uses and Application

PET scan (positron emission tomography) uses nuclear medicine imaging to produce a 3D picture of functional processes in the body. It provides metabolic information, while CT or MRI provide anatomic information, good details about bony structures and some details of soft tissues.

Detecting Changes Earlier

Although a PET scan takes longer than CT and MRI (2-4 hrs), the results can make a difference in terms of time. A PET scan can often detect very early in the structure of organs and tissues the changes caused by a disease. CT or MRI can detect changes a little later.

Risks and radiation exposure

PET scan has moderate to high radiation risk. Radiation risk from the injection of a radioactive tracer is about the same as an X-ray. PET scan is not an option for pregnant or breastfeeding women due to exposure to ionization radiations. Some mild allergic reaction may occur because of the radioactive substance used.

Mainly due to the use of X-rays, CT scans are associated with the risk of causing cancers (lung cancer, colon cancer, leukemia). Other safety concerns are associated with the use of contrast agents.

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