Pros and Cons/Side Effects

Positron Emission Tomography is a relatively new form of medical imaging that has only begun to be used in a clinical setting since the early 1990s. An innovative diagnostic imaging tool, PET imaging is used by physicians to examine biochemical changes within a patient. A metabolic imaging tool, PET scans are used to diagnose, stage, and follow-up on treatments by examining a patient’s biochemistry. Diseases usually affect the biochemistry of a patient and these changes can be detected by this procedure.

As with all forms of medical imaging procedures, PET scans come with a number of advantages and disadvantages. Some PET imaging advantages include:

  • Its ability to study body function through biochemical functions means that it is able to detect disease before changes in the anatomy become apparent making it more effective in diagnosing than other imaging tests.
  • By studying metabolic functions in patients, PET imaging is able to be used as an alternative to biopsy and other exploratory surgeries to determine how much a disease has spread.
  • Its ability to distinguish between benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tumors make it a more accurate medical tool that can reduce the number of unnecessary surgeries performed due to incorrect diagnosis and staging data.
  • Is effectively used to diagnose the early stages of neurological illnesses such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias.
  • For individuals afraid of infection in medical procedures, PET scan and infection are words that never go together.

Despite the number of advantages that PET imaging contains, it also has a number of disadvantages that include:

  • PET scan risks caused by the radioactive component used during this procedure. Although the radioactive compounds used in PET imaging are short-lived and the equivalent of 2 x-rays, the radioactive substance may not be suitable for patients who are pregnant, suspect that they are pregnant, or are breast feeding.
  • The radioactive components used in PET imaging will not persist for long periods in a patient’s body, however, the radioactive exposure in PET imaging means that there is only a limited amount of times a patient can undergo this procedure.
  • A relatively new medical procedure, PET imaging is expensive with an average cost ranging between $900 and $1400.
  • As PET scans require cyclotrons, an expensive machine that creates the radioisotopes that are used in the radioactive tracers required for PET imaging, PET scans are not offered in the majority of medical centers in the world. Consequently, it is a difficult treatment to receive.


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