Bone scan

Bone scan

Bone scan

Alternative Names: Bone scintigraphy

A bone scan is a nuclear medicine test in which radioactive material is injected into the body, allowing it to accumulate in the bone. An image is then taken (using special cameras) of the skeleton, detecting different areas of metabolism in the bone. This may aid in the diagnosis of conditions such as bone cancer, infections and fractures. Side effects are rare, although there is a small risk of an allergic reaction to the radioactive material as well as damage to the unborn child in pregnant women. For these reasons you should inform your doctor if you are pregnant, lactating and/or if you have a history of allergy.

What is it?
A bone scan is a nuclear medicine test in which radioactive material is injected into the body, allowing it to accumulate in the bone. An image is then taken (using special cameras) of the skeleton, detecting different areas of metabolism and activity in the bone.

Why is it done?
Cells in your bones are continually replacing old bone with new bone. However, this normal bone turnover may be disrupted by various conditions. A bone scan may be helpful in diagnosing these conditions, which include:

  • Arthritis
  • Fractures
  • Paget’s disease
  • Osteomalacia/rickets (mineral deficiency in the bones)
  • Bone infections

What happens?

Before – how to prepare
No fasting is required. You may have to remove clothing, jewellery and certain metal objects. You will also need to sign a consent form.

During – how the test is done
Radioactive material is injected into a vein and usually after about 2-3 hours the image is taken. In some cases images may be taken at different times e.g. a few minutes after the injection is given, as well as a couple of hours later – this is known as a multiphase scan. While the image is being taken you will be asked to lie still on a padded table (similar to those found in MRI or CT scanners). The images are recorded on computer and are reviewed by a nuclear medicine specialist or radiologist.

After the test
You should not experience any untoward side effects, and the radioactive material should disappear from your body within a few days.

Risks and Compilations
Bone scans are generally considered safe, with the levels of radiation being fairly low (in fact less than most X-rays). Risks do, however, include:

  • Allergy to the radioactive material (rare)
  • Radiation damage to the unborn child if performed on pregnant women

Special Issues
Bone scans should be avoided in pregnant or lactating women due to the reason cited above. However, if the suspected condition is important enough to risk doing the scan, breast-feeding should be discontinued for 48 hours after the scan.

Short Description
A bone scan is a nuclear medicine test in which radioactive material is injected into the body, allowing it to accumulate in the bone.

Keywords
bone scan, bone scintigraphy



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