Bone Scan

1 What is a Bone Scan?

A bone scan is an imaging test that helps make a diagnosis and track different types of bone diseases.

You doctor may order a bone scan if you have unexplained skeletal pain, bone infection, or a bone injury that cannot be seen on a standard X-ray.

A bone is also an important tool in the detection of cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bone from the tumor's original position, such as the brain or prostate.

2 Reasons for Procedure

If reasons of your bone pain are unexplainable, a bone scan can might help determine the cause. The test is very sensitive to variation and bone metabolism.

The ability to make a scan of the entire skeleton makes the bone scan very helpful in making a diagnosis of a wide range of bone disorders, including:

  • Fractures.
  • Arthritis.
  • Paget's disease of bone.
  • Cancer Originating in bone.
  • Fibrous dysplasia.
  • Impaired blood supply to bones or death of bone tissue (avascular necrosis).
  • Cancer originating in the bone.
  • Paget's disease of bone.
  • Cancer that has metastasized to bone from a different site.
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3 Potential Risks

There are no major risks associated with the bone scan. The tracers send in a bone scan produces very little radiation exposure which is less than that of a CT scan.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

No diet restrictions or avoidance of particular activities in preparation for a bone scan is necessary.

Immediately before the test, though, you may be asked to remove jewelry or other metallic items.

Bone scans are not usually performed on pregnant women or nursing mothers because of concern about radiation exposure to the baby.

It is of vital importance to let your doctor know if you might pregnant or if you are nursing.

5 What to Expect

During, before, and after your bone scan procedure, you can expect:

A bone scan is a nuclear imaging procedure. In nuclear imaging, tiny amounts of radioactive materials (tracers) are injected into a vein and taken up in varying amounts at different sites in the body.

Areas of the body where cells and tissues are repairing themselves most actively take up the largest amounts of the tracer.

Nuclear images highlight these areas, suggesting the presence of abnormalities associated with disease or injury. A bone scan includes both an injection and the actual scan.

The injection Tracers will be injected into a vein in your arm. The amount of time between the injection and scan varies, depending on the reason your doctor has ordered the scan.

Some images may be taken immediately after the injection. You will need to wait for two to four hours, however, before the main images are taken, to allow the tracer to circulate and be absorbed by your bones.

Your doctor may recommend that you drink several glasses of water while you wait. The scan You'll be asked to lie still on a table while an arm like device supporting a tracer-sensitive camera passes back and forth over your body.

The procedure is painless. A scan of your entire skeleton usually takes less than 30 minutes. Scanning a limited area of your body takes less time.

Your doctor might order a three-phase bone scan, which includes a series of images taken at different times. A number of images are taken as the tracer is injected, then shortly after the injection, and again two to four hours later.

To better see some bones in your body, your doctor might order additional imaging called single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT).

This imaging can help analyze conditions that are especially deep in your bone or in places that are difficult to see. For a SPECT scan, the camera rotates around your body, taking images as it rotates.

The additional SPECT images take about 35 minutes. After the test, A bone scan generally has no side effects, and no follow-up care is needed.

The radioactivity in the tracers is mostly removed from your body after one day and completely eliminated by two days.

6 Procedure Results

A radiologist will read the bone scan results and look for evidence of abnormal bone metabolism on the scans.

These areas have a darker "hot spots" and lighter "cold spots" appearance where the tracers have not accumulated.

Although a bone scan is very sensitive to abnormalities in bone metabolism, it is not as helpful in determining the precise cause of the abnormality.

If you have a bone scan that shows hot spots, additional testing may be ordered to determine the cause.

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