WHAT IS A BONE SCAN?
A bone scan is an imaging test. It is used to find bone problems, such as cancer, infections, or fractures. It is also used to check joint replacements, and to find joint problems, such as arthritis. A bone scan uses a small amount of injected radioactive matter (tracer) and a camera to form an image. It is a type of nuclear medicine scan. You doctor has ordered this test usually to determine the source of pain or as part of malignancy staging.
BEFORE YOUR SCAN
Before your scan, you may be told to avoid some medications. Prepare as instructed, or your scan may be canceled. After you are injected with a tracer, your scan may be done right away or a few hours later. If your scan is done right away, you will have a second scan in a few hours. This waiting time allows the tracer to concentrate in your bones. The entire process will take about 15 minutes for the injection, and about an hour for the delayed scan.
LET THE TECHNOLOGIST KNOW
For the success of the scan and for your safety, tell the technologist if you:
Are pregnant or breastfeeding
Have had a bone scan before
Have had a recent barium study or an x-ray using contrast
Have any fractures or joint replacements
You may be asked about your overall health to aid in assessing your images.
DURING YOUR SCAN
You will lie on a narrow imaging table. To obtain clear images, the technologist will place a large camera very close to your body. You will be asked to stay still while the camera takes pictures. The table or camera may then be adjusted to take more pictures. (Extra pictures will not expose you to more radiation.) Images of your bones will be viewed on a screen.
AFTER YOUR SCAN
Before leaving, you may have to wait briefly while the images are reviewed with the Radiologist. You can then return to your normal routine. The tracer will leave your body within a few days. To hasten this process, drink extra water and urinate often for 24 hours after your scan. Your doctor will let you know when the results are ready.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Relax and stay as still as you can. This will help ensure that the images taken will be clear.
Prepare for the test as instructed.
Ask how long the test will take.
Bring something you can do while waiting to have your scan.
Be ready to talk about your health and any allergies you may have.