Bone Scan Procedure

What is a bone scan procedure?

A bone scan is a nuclear imaging test that can help doctors diagnose and track several types of bone diseases, including bone infections. It can also be used to detect cancer that may have spread to the bone from the tumour's original location.

During the bone scan, a very small amount of radioactive substance called a radiopharmaceutical is injected into your vein. The substance works like a dye but does not stain the tissue. The tracer is absorbed in different amounts, which will be highlighted in the scan. When cells and tissues change, they absorb higher amounts of tracer, which may signal the presence of cancer.

Why do you need a bone scan?

Your doctor may order a bone scan if they think there may be a problem in your bones or if you have experienced bone pain. Bone scans are able to scan the whole skeleton and detect various bone disorders such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Fractures
  • Bone cancers
  • Infection of the joints, joint replacements or bones (osteomyelitis)
  • Impaired blood supply to bones or death of bone tissue (avascular necrosis)
  • Fibrous dysplasia, where abnormal scar-like tissue grow in place of normal bone
  • Paget's disease of bone, a disease that causes weak, deformed bones

Who should not undergo bone scans?

Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not undergo bone scans as radiation exposure may harm the foetus and contaminate breast milk.

What are the risks and complications of a bone scan?

A bone scan carries the same risk level as conventional X-rays. The tracers used in a bone scan produce little radiation exposure. Almost all of it will be released from your body within 2 – 3 days. The risk of having an allergic reaction to the tracers is low.

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