What’s the difference between PET and CT scans?

In the world of imaging, there are all kinds of scans with all kinds of letters behind them. To the everyday person, we understand how it can be a bit confusing. Two scans in particular, PET and CT scans, either get mixed up or miscommunicated about pretty often, so we wanted to post a blog to clear it up and give you a comparison of what these two scans really are. Here’s the difference between PET and CT scans.


First and foremost, although these two scans are similar, they have different purposes that we have to mention. PET (positron emission tomography) scans are imaging tests that are used to learn more about what’s going on in an organ or tissue on the cellular/molecular level, so it’s on a very small scale. CT (computer tomography) scans, on the other hand, are used for a larger scale type of imaging for anatomic information or pictures of internal structures. 

This is an important distinction because PET scans can detect diseases or cancers at a much earlier stage when it’s beginning in the cells, whereas CT scans can detect when the disease starts to affect the structure of organs or tissues. 

Time & Money

As far as time goes, CT scans are super quick–usually completed in 5 minutes. PET scans take a little longer, anywhere from 2-4 hours. This makes sense though because it’s a lot hard to get an image on the cellular level compared to the organ/structural level.

One pro to CT scans is that they cost a lot less than PET scans, about half to be exact. CT scans range anywhere from $1200 to $3200, but PET scans can cost $3000 up to $6000. You’re paying for a more detailed type of imaging, so it’s for good reason!

Radiation Exposure

According to experts, the radiation dose from CT scans is about the same as the average person would receive from background/everyday radiation in 3 to 5 years. PET scans however, expose the patient to a moderate to high level of radiation. This doesn’t mean the patient will get cancer from the scan, it just means more radiation is needed to get the desired image result. Of course, it is not recommended to get these tests often because radiation can eventually lead to cancerous effects. 

These are just the basics of PET and CT scans differences, but if you want to learn more or see how these scans are done, visit this link. PET and CT scans are some of the radiology services we offer; so if we can help you with any imaging needs, don’t hesitate to let us know! You can also read more on our Services page. 

2018-08-01T18:02:20+00:00November 28th, 2016|0 Comments

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