Edinburgh Imaging

Having a PET scan - FAQ's

Read our FAQ's page regarding having a PET (Positron emission tomography) scan.

1. What happens when I get there?

My scan is in the Edinburgh Imaging Facility - Queen's Medical Research Institute

When you arrive at EIF-QMRI, please report to the reception desk downstairs (you will need to buzz for access at the main door). You will be asked to have a seat in the reception area and a radiographer will come to collect you. Once you are in the EIF-QMRI, you will be asked to complete a specific form for the type of scan you are having.

Directions to EIF-QMRI


2. What is the difference between PET-MRI & PET-CT?

Simply, a PET-MRI scanner is a type of MRI scan where you will also have a PET scan (Positron emission tomography) done at the same time.

A PET-CT scan is a PET scan, which will also do a CT scan (computed tomography ) just before the PET scan.

A PET-MRI scanner looks very similar to a MRI scanner (Magnetic resonance imaging) and a PET-CT scanner looks like a slightly larger CT scanner.

Futher information on PET scans 

Further information on CT scans 

Futher information on MRI scans


3. Who will perform the scan?

The scan will be performed by a highly specialised team of radiographers and nuclear medicine technologists.


4. What happens during a scan?

Sometime before your scan (usually 60-90 minutes), one of the team will give you a small injection in your arm. This is a radiotracer. You will be required to stay in a rest area until you are ready for the scan.

  • PET-CT: You will be asked to lie on a bed and made comfortable. Sometimes you are asked to put your arms above your head. You will then move in and out of the scanner several times to begin, followed by a period when the table only moves every few minutes. This can last up to about 30 minutes. You should remain as still as possible during this time. There is a 2 way intercom, so the team can hear you for the duration of your scan.
  • PET-MR: After you have been screened and have changed into a gown, you will be taken into the scanning room and made comfortable on the scanner bed (using pillows and blankets as you choose). A specially shaped piece of equipment may be placed around the part of the body being scanned (this allows high quality images to be taken). Due to the unique way a PET-MRI scanner works, a loud, banging noise will be heard while the actual scanning is taking place. To reduce the noise, people wear ear defenders /earplugs (which we provide).

PET-MR images are very sensitive to movement. By keeping very still during the scan you can improve the quality of the images we obtain. The PET-MRI radiographer will help make sure you are comfortable in the scanner, so you feel relaxed, settled, and secure


5. What should I wear?
  • PET-CT: You can wear any loose comfortable clothes, as long as there are no metal clips or zips. If you do have any metal parts, you will be able to get changed into a gown.
  • PET-MRI: Because the machine uses a very strong magnet, you will be asked to change into a gown to ensure that all articles of metal have been removed before you enter the scan room.


6. Do I need to be accompanied?

You will not need to be accompanied. The radiography team should be able to provide any support needed. However, in certain circumstances if you feel you have to be accompanied by someone into the scan room for a PET-MRI scan, then that person would need to go through the same screening process as you and remove all metal before going into the room.

However, because you will have been given a small injection of radiotracer, this will make you radioactive for approximately 6 hours after you leave the facility. Therefore, you should not be accompanied by small children or pregnant women during your visit. The radiography team will be able to give you specific instructions in relation to this.


7. What sort of images will be taken?

The type of images will depend on the study you are participating in and will be explained to you by the radiographers. Most scans just require the study subject to lie still in the scanner while the images are being taken.

There will be CT or MRI images taken, as well as PET images, so anatomical details, along with cell functional information will be acquired.


8. Can I see my images?

We do not normally show you your images. The scanner acquires sometimes thousands of images and it can take time for the computer to process them. It may be possible to obtain some images at a later date, but you would need to complete a form and a cost is usually associated with this.


9. What happens to the information my scan provides?

If you are a subject having a scan for a clinical reason and not in a research study, a radiologist will look at your scan and send a report to the hospital consultant or GP who referred you for the scan. This usually takes 10 to 14 days. Please click here to view the diagram to show you the process.

If you are a study subject taking part in a research study, a radiologist will look at your scan and send a report to the doctor running the study. This process takes between 10-14 working days.

If you are a healthy person having a scan as a volunteer in a research project, a report documenting: (a) that the scan took place, (b) the type of scanning used, and (c) any diagnostic information that was obtained, will be sent to the Principal Investigator of the study (if a clinician), a nominated clinically-trained co-investigator, or to your GP.


10. Will the radiographer give me my results?

No. Some scans require specialist processing by our image analysts to obtain the results and all scans need a radiologist with the clinical expertise to interpret the images. Please do not ask the radiographer for the result as they are not able to provide it.


11. How long will my scan take?

The whole procedure can take from about 90 minutes to 2 and a half hours depending on the type of scan. You will usually have to wait in an 'uptake room' (a comfortable room with a trolley or chair to relax in) for 60-90 minutes prior to the scan itself. The scan itself can take between 20 to 60 minutes.


12. Can I continue my daily tasks after?

You can, but because of the radiotracer you will have been injected with, you will be slightly radioactive for approximately 6 hours after leaving the facility. Therefore, you should where possible, avoid crowded areas and being near to children or pregnant women, as they are most sensitive to the effects of radiation. The radiography team will be able to provide specific advice about this.


13. Does the centre cater for disabled volunteers?

All of our facilities have full disabled access and toilet facilities. Due to the strong magnetic field of the MRI scanner, you will not be able to take your own wheelchair into the actual scanning room using instead, our dedicated "non-magnetic" wheelchair. If you require a hoist or another type of aid to transfer from the chair to the scanner bed, please contact us before your appointment so that we can make the necessary arrangements for your visit:

  • My scan is in the Edinburgh Imaging Facility - Queen's Medical Research Institute

    • Telephone: 0131 242 7776

The Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters: This service is offered by the City of Edinburgh Interpreting and Translation service for study subjects, carers and families. The Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters can be contacted during office hours on 0131-347 5601


14. English is not my native language, do you provide a translation service?

The hospital and University of Edinburgh run a translation service for study subjects who do not speak English. If this service is required, please contact us in advance of the appointment so we can make the necessary arrangements:

  • My scan is in the Edinburgh Imaging Facility - Queen's Medical Research Institute

    • Telephone: 0131 242 7776


These are not patient information sheets for a particular study.