Cardiac PET Scan

Cardiac PET (Positron Emission Tomography) imaging provides the most accurate noninvasive means of detecting significant coronary artery disease (CAD). The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) uses this innovative nuclear imaging test to show areas of decreased blood flow in your heart.

A Cardiac PET scan can help specialists determine the location and percentage of your blockage(s) that have developed because of plaque buildup. In many cases, a Cardiac PET scan can help a physician make an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. 

What Are Common Uses for a Cardiac PET?

The Heart Center of NGMC physicians use cardiac PET scans to diagnose heart disease such as coronary artery disease. Your doctor can determine the severity of your cardiac disease and determine the best treatment options by using high-quality nuclear cardiac imaging such as the PET scan.

Imaging can also reveal injured or dead tissue in your heart that is often the result of a heart attack. With PET scanning, a cardiologist can determine whether you’re a candidate for percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to open an artery, bypass surgery or other therapeutic options.

What Can I Expect During a Cardiac PET?

A cardiac PET scan uses radioactive tracers (called radionuclides) to produce high-quality pictures of your heart. With this imaging technique, our cardiologists and technicians can measure blood flow to your heart. 

You will lie on a moveable table that slides into the PET scanner. An IV line will be used to inject tracers that are picked up by your heart into your bloodstream. Before the tracer is injected, a baseline picture of your heart will be taken. After a technician injects the tracers, several special detectors will pick up signals released by the tracers. These signals translate into images of thin slices of your heart. You will need to stay completely still as the technician takes the pictures. Your heart tissue function will show on the PET scan with varying levels of colors and brightness.

Our PET equipment at The Heart Center of NGMC uses 3-D technology to create images. This process provides a much lower radiation exposure — an important safety concern if you may need repeated imaging.

Benefits of Cardiac PET over other imaging?

Cardiac PET scans offer several advantages over other types of imaging.

Pictures produced by PET imaging are nearly free of shadows, which means physicians can more accurately diagnose coronary artery disease.
PET imaging studies only take about 45 minutes compared to three to four hours for traditional tomography imaging.

“By providing more accurate diagnoses, PET helps us avoid further unnecessary testing and treatment in those with normal tests. Those with abnormal PET imaging benefit from appropriate treatment with a high degree of certainty.”
Abhishek Gaur, MD, FACC, medical director of outpatient cardiac noninvasive testing at The Heart Center of NGMC

What Are the Risks of Cardiac PET?

Cardiac PET has few risks or side effects for most people. However, the tracer might cause a major allergic reaction in rare cases. Although you’re only exposed to a small amount of radiation, you should tell your doctor before the scan if you’re pregnant, could be pregnant, or if you’re nursing.

How is Recovery After a Cardiac PET?

You can generally resume your regular activities after a PET scan is done. For the next 24 hours, you should drink plenty of water or other fluids to flush the tracer out of your system.

Your radiologist will send the image results to your doctor. You should schedule an appointment with your doctor to review the results.