Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

About Us

Definition of PET

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a highly specialized imaging technique using short-lived radiolabeled substances to produce powerful images of the body's biological function. PET scanning provides information about the body's chemistry not available through other procedures. Unlike computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), techniques that show anatomy or body form, PET shows metabolic activity or body function.

PET has been used primarily in cardiology, neurology, and oncology. PET is used to investigate the metabolism of normal organs and has also become a commonly used technique to investigate various neurological diseases and disorders, including stroke, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. Various psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and Tourette syndrome, are also studied with PET.

PET is especially useful in the context of cancer because it can detect metastatic tumors that might not be visualized by other imaging techniques. It is also being increasingly used not only as a cancer diagnostic tool, but also to help physicians design the most beneficial therapies. For example, it may be used to assess response to chemotherapy. PET imaging is very accurate in differentiating malignant from benign cell growths and in assessing the spread of malignant tumors. PET is also used to detect recurrent brain tumors and cancers of the lung, colon, breast, lymph nodes, skin, and other organs.

NOTE: PDF documents require the free Adobe Reader.

This page last updated on 06/13/2017

You are now leaving the NIH Clinical Center website.

This external link is provided for your convenience to offer additional information. The NIH Clinical Center is not responsible for the availability, content or accuracy of this external site.

The NIH Clinical Center does not endorse, authorize or guarantee the sponsors, information, products or services described or offered at this external site. You will be subject to the destination site’s privacy policy if you follow this link.

More information about the NIH Clinical Center Privacy and Disclaimer policy is available at http://www.cc.nih.gov/disclaimers.html