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At UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the success of this test and invite you to participate. Please read the following information to learn about the scan and how you can help.
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Positron (POZ-it-tron) emission (e-MISS-shun) tomography (toe-MOG-ruff-ee)–also called a PET scan–is a safe test that gives doctors special pictures of the human body. Other similar tests, such MRI and CT scans, take detailed pictures of the body as well, including the brain. A PET scan takes pictures of chemical and other changes in the brain that MRI and CT scans cannot show. These detailed pictures of the brain’s activity that PET scans provide help doctors diagnose a problem, choose the best treatment and see how well the treatment is working.
This test involves a computer-based PET scanner and a special liquid known as a radiopharmaceutical (RAY-dee-oh-far-ma-SOO-tick-ool). The liquid has very small amounts of radioactive molecules in it but is completely safe and will not hurt your child. The liquid is given through a shot. Once it reaches the part of the body that is being tested, it sends signals that can be read by the PET scanner and made into the pictures that the doctors will look at.
A PET scan is done in three stages. First, your child will be given a shot of the special liquid (radiopharmaceutical). Next, there is a waiting period. Then, there is the PET scan itself.
Now, your child is ready for the last stage – the PET scan itself. The PET scanner looks like a big donut with a hole in the middle and a table that slides into it. The PET scanner will not touch your child’s body and the scan will not hurt at all. You may stay with your child during the entire test.
We welcome your help and support during this test. One parent or guardian is invited to join your child in the exam room and scan room. Other adults and children must stay in the waiting area.
After the PET scan, the quality of the pictures will be checked. If they are of good quality, the test is complete.
If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the doctor performing the scan needs to know about, please call the Department of Pediatric Radiology at Children’s before the test and ask to speak with a nurse. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs.
Preparing your child beforehand, as well as comforting your child during the test, will help your child have a more positive experience. Sometimes it is difficult to know how to explain tests to children. If you have any questions about ways to prepare or support your child or feel your child will have difficulty during the test, please call the Department of Pediatric Radiology at Children’s and ask to speak with the Child Life Specialist.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Support the hospital by making a donation online, joining our Heroes in Healing monthly donor program, or visiting our site to learn about the other ways you can give back.