Gain insight into your health when you trust the experienced team at Johnston Health for positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT). At our convenient location in Smithfield, you’ll receive imaging services that follow high standards for safety and deliver accurate results.

What is a PET/CT Scan?

A PET/CT scan uses nuclear medicine and computed tomography to check the health and function of your organs and tissues. It creates detailed images of activity in your body using:

  • Special computer and camera
  • Radiotracers, which are small, safe amounts of radioactive material

Why It’s Done

Your doctor may recommend a PET/CT scan to check for signs of a health problem in its earliest stages, before other imaging tests may show it. This scan can help your providers measure certain functions in the body, including:

  • Blood flow
  • Use and storage of blood glucose (sugar) for energy
  • Use of oxygen

The scan may also check for signs of:

  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal (digestive) conditions
  • Heart disease
  • Neurological (brain, spine, and nerve) disorders
  • Problems that affect the endocrine system, which includes the glands that make hormones

During the scan, if your provider identifies a health problem, they may be able to check how well you respond to treatment right away.

What to Expect

Your appointment will take place on a Saturday. When you arrive, you may change into a gown.

A nurse or technician will give you the radiotracer through an injection. You’ll rest for up to 90 minutes as the radiotracer travels through your body.

Next, you’ll receive a CT scan, which takes no more than a few minutes. Then, you’ll move to a table for the PET exam. The table passes slowly through an imaging scanner over a period of 20–45 minutes. The scanner shows the radiotracer in the part of the body where you may have a health condition.

After the full exam, you’ll be able to go home and do your normal activities.

How to Prepare

Follow your provider’s instructions to get ready for your PET/CT scan. Tell our staff:

  • About your medical history, including any recent or current illnesses
  • If you may be pregnant or you’re breastfeeding
  • What medications you take

In the day or hours before your scan, you may need to avoid eating and drinking. On the day of your appointment, wear loose and comfortable clothing. Do not wear jewelry.

PET/CT Patient Information Form [PDF]

PET/CT Patient Prep Form [PDF]

PET/CT Diabetic Patient Preparation Menu [PDF]


A radiologist will review your images and send a report to your doctor who ordered the test. Expect a phone call from your doctor’s office to discuss the results and next steps.

To check your results in our secure, online patient portal, visit My UNC Chart.

Talk to Your Doctor

If your doctor orders an imaging procedure at UNC Health Johnston, you’ll get a call from Community Wide Scheduling to make an appointment.

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