Bone Scan FAQ

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Q1. What is a bone scan?

A1. It is an imaging test used to examine bones that may have been affected / damaged due to cancer/any other disease. It is also known as scintigraphy.

Q2. How is a bone scan test done?

A2. Small amount of radioactive substance called as radiotracer is injected into a patient’s arm vein. A scanning camera moves around the patient to detect the amount of radioactive substance that collects in the bones.

Q3. When is bone scan required?

A3. It will be suggested:

  • When there is unexplained bone pain, the cause for which cannot be detected in a normal x ray.
  • For detection of cancer that has its origin in the bones or has spread to the bones.
  • For detecting bone infection as in osteomyelitis.
  • Foe diagnosing bone fracture which cannot be seen on a normal X ray.
  • To diagnose metabolic disorders of the bone like osteomalacia, osteoporosis, paget disease, etc.

Q4. What will a bone scan show?

A4. A bone scan will show areas of metabolism: increased/ decreased or normal bone metabolism.

Q5. How much time does a bone scan take?

A5. A bone scan can take about an hour.

Q6. What preparations are required for a bone scan test?

A6. The patient will be asked to remove any metal objects or jewelry that he may be wearing. A hospital gown will be given to wear.

If you have recently taken medications that contain bismuth or if you have undergone an x ray where barium meal was given, then doctor must be informed because barium and bismuth affect the test results.

Q7. Who must not undergo this test?

A7. A pregnant woman should not undergo this test as there is use of radiations. A lactating mother is also not recommended a bone scan.

Q8. Is there any discomfort during the test?

A8. The patient will be asked to change positions and will have to lie down still during the scan.

Q9. What are normal and abnormal results?

A9. If the radiotracer moves evenly through the bones, there is no anomaly and the result is considered normal.

If certain areas show increased or decreased accumulation of radiotracer material as compared to the surrounding areas, then the scan findings are abnormal in respect to those areas.

Areas that absorb little amount of tracer, will appear dark and are called as cold spots. This is also indicative of lack of blood supply to the bone and this is seen in cases of cancer.

Areas that absorb more amount of tracer are seen bright and are called as hot spots. They are seen in cases of fracture/ infection/trauma.

Q10. Does bone scan carry a higher radiation exposure risk as compared to standard x rays?

A10. A very small amount of radiotracer is injected and exposure to radiations is very low. Radiation exposure is almost similar to conventional x rays.

Q11. What can be the possible risks?

A11. Usually there is no risk. In some cases, there may be allergic reaction to the radiotracer and the patient may develop rashes.


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