PET-CT scan

A PET-CT scan (short for positron emission tomography-computed tomography scan) combines PET and CT technology to take very detailed pictures of organs and tissues inside the body and puts them together to creates 3D images.

Watch the video below to learn more about having a PET-CT scan at the Queensland Children’s Hospital.

Why does my child need a PET-CT scan?

PET-CT scans are used for a range of reasons, including:

  • to see how different organs in the body are functioning.
  • for early detection and management of infections, conditions (gastrointestinal, endocrine, or neurological, such as epilepsy) or diseases (such as cancer).
  • to assess the effectiveness of treatment.

Your referring doctor will discuss the reason for your child’s scan in more details with you before you visit the hospital.

How long will it take?

You should allow approximately 3 hours for your visit.

It’s important to prepare your child for their PET-CT scan so everything runs smoothly on the day. Our staff will contact you prior to the appointment to discuss any preparation required and answer any questions you may have. The two most important things to remember are:
1. Fasting
Your child should not eat or drink anything for 4 to 6 hours before their PET-CT scan. A PET scan uses a special radioactive dye (‘the tracer’) to create the images of inside the body, and any food drink in the stomach can affect the distribution of the tracer in the body (which can lead to a suboptimal scan).
2. No metal items
Check that your child’s clothing does not contain any metal items (buttons, zippers etc) as it can interfere with the equipment and affect the images. Your child will also have to remove any jewellery. We recommend your child wears something warm and comfortable for their scan.
On arrival you will be taken into a special room called the uptake room. Here a cannula (a thin tube) will be placed in a vein in your child’s arm. If your child already has a central line or port, this will be used instead. The tracer (often called ‘sparkle juice’) is injected through the cannula, central line or port and into the body.
Once the tracer has been administered, your child will need to sit still and relax for about 1 hour.  We will ensure your child is warm and comfortable during this period.
The PET-CT scanner looks like a big doughnut. For the scan, your child will need to lie down on the table which moves through the middle of the ‘doughnut’ while it takes the pictures. It’s important for them to stay as still as they can. Foam cushions and soft straps may be used to help them stay still and in position.
If your child has difficulty staying still for small periods of time, they may need to have a general anaesthetic or sedation. This can be arranged prior to your child’s appointment. For more information, see the Anaesthesia and your child fact sheet.
It should take approximately 30mins to complete the scan.
When the scan is finished, your child will be monitored for a short period and offered something to drink. If they had a canula inserted, this will be also removed before they leave.
Important: After the scan, your child will remain slightly radioactive until the ‘tracer’ leaves the body. While the amount of radiation in the tracer is small and the risk of harm is very low, we recommend your child stay away from other children and pregnant women for about 6 hours following the scan.
If your child has any delayed reactions to the tracer after leaving the hospital, please call 000 or present to your closest emergency department.
A specialist doctor (a nuclear physician) will review your child’s scans and create a report. This report will then be sent to your referring doctor, who will contact you to discuss the results. Please note, your child’s results cannot be given out over the phone. If you have any questions about the results of your child’s scan, please contact their referring doctor.

This service is available at

Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine (1a)
Queensland Children’s Hospital

Level 1
501 Stanley Street
South Brisbane
QLD 4101
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Contact details

t: 07 3068 3100  |  07 3068 1111 (after hours via hospital switchboard)

Operating hours

Monday to Friday, 8am–5pm.